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I 



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all numbered 



Kg 3jri 



THE WORKS OF 

GEORGE MEREDITH 

RHODA FLEMING 
I 



THE WORKS OF 



GEORGE MEREDITH 



VOLUME IX 




WESTMINSTER 

ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE AND CO. 

2 WHITEHALL GARDENS 

1897 



RHODA 
FLEMING 



A STORY 



VOLUME 
I 



Originally published 
3 vols. : London 1865 



CONTENTS 



l*age 

I. The Kentish Family, ... 1 

II. Queen Anne's Farm, ... 11 

III. Suggests the Might of the Money Demon, . 24 

IV. The Text from Scripture, ... 35 
V. The Sisters meet, . . . .43 

VI. Edward and Algernon, . . .48 

VII. Great News from Dahlia, . . .63 
Vin. Introduces Mrs. Lovell, . . .75 

IX. Robert Intervenes, . . . .85 

X. Dahlia is not Visible, . . .92 

XI. An Indicative Duet in a Minor Key, . 105 

Xn. At the Theatre, . . . .117 

Xm. The Farmer speaks, . . . .128 

b ix 



CONTENTS 
XIV. Between Rhoda and Robert, 
XV. A Visit to Wrexby Hall, . 
XVI. At Fairly Park, 
XVn. A Yeoman of the Old Breed, 
XVIII. An Assembly at the Pilot Inn, 
XIX. Robert smitten low, 
XX. Mrs. Lovell shows a Tame Brute, 



Page 

138 
147 
156 
167 
180 
202 
219 



XXI. Gives a Glimpse of what Poor Villanies 

the Story contains, . . . 226 



XXII. Edward takes his Course, 
XXIII. Major Percy Waring, 



242 
257 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER I 
The Kentish Family 

Remains of our good yeomanry blood will be found 
in Kent, developing stiff, solid, unobtrusive men, and 
very personable women. The distinction survives there 
between Kentish women and women of Kent, as a 
true South-eastern dame will let you know, if it is 
her fortune to belong to that favoured portion of the 
county where the great battle was fought, in which 
the gentler sex performed manful work, but on what 
luckless heads we hear not; and when garrulous 
tradition is discreet, the severe historic Muse declines 
to hazard a guess. Saxon, one would presume, since 
it is thought something to have broken them. 

My plain story is of two Kentish damsels, and runs 
from a home of flowers into regions where flowers are 
few and sickly, on to where the flowers which breathe 
sweet breath have been proved in mortal fire. 

Mrs. Fleming, of Queen Anne's Farm, was the wife 
of a yeoman-farmer of the county. Both were of 
sound Kentish extraction, albeit varieties of the breed. 
The farm had its name from a tradition, common to 
many other farmhouses within a circuit of the metro- 
polis, that the ante-Hanoverian lady had used the place 
in her day as a nursery-hospital for the royal little 
ones. It was a square three-storied building of red- 
9— A 1 



CHAPTER 

I 

The Kentish 

Family 



RHODA FLEMING 

brick, much beaten and stained by the weather, with 
an ivied side, up which the ivy grew stoutly, topping 
the roof in triumphant lumps. The house could hardly 
be termed picturesque. Its aspect had struck many 
eyes as being very much that of a red-coat sentinel 
grenadier, battered with service, and standing firmly 
enough, though not at ease. Surrounding it was a 
high wall, built partly of flint and partly of brick, 
and ringed all over with grey lichen and brown spots 
of bearded moss, that bore witness to the touch of 
many winds and rains. Tufts of pale grass, and gilli- 
flowers, and travelling stone-crop, hung from the wall, 
and driblets of ivy ran broadening to the outer ground. 
The royal Arms were said to have surmounted the 
great iron gateway ; but they had vanished, either 
with the family, or at the indications of an approach- 
ing rust. Rust defiled its bars ; but, when you looked 
through them, the splendour of an unrivalled garden 
gave vivid signs of youth, and of the taste of an 
orderly, laborious, and cunning hand. 

The garden was under Mrs. Fleming's charge. The 
joy of her love for it was written on its lustrous beds, 
as poets write. She had the poetic passion for flowers. 
Perhaps her taste may now seem questionable. She 
cherished the old-fashioned delight in tulips ; the house 
was reached on a gravel-path between rows of tulips, 
rich with one natural blush, or freaked by art. She 
liked a bulk of colour ; and when the dahlia dawned 
upon our gardens, she gave her heart to dahlias. By 
good desert, the fervent woman gained a prize at a 
flower-show for one of her dahlias, and * Dahlia ' was 
the name uttered at the christening of her eldest 
daughter, at which all Wrexby parish laughed as long 

2 



RHODA FLEMING 

as the joke could last. There was laughter also when chapter 
Mrs. Fleming's second daughter received the name of j^g Kentish 
* Rhoda ' ; but it did not endure for so long a space, Family 
as it was known that she had taken more to the 
solitary and reflective reading of her Bible, and to 
thoughts upon flowers eternal. Country people are 
not inclined to tolerate the display of a passion for 
anything. They find it as intrusive and exasperating 
as is, in the midst of larger congregations, what we 
call genius. For some years, Mrs. Fleming's proceed- 
ings were simply a theme for gossips, and her vanity 
was openly pardoned, until that delusively prosperous 
appearance which her labour lent to the house, was 
worn through by the enforced confession of there 
being poverty in the household. The ragged elbow 
was then projected in the face of Wrexby in a manner 
to preclude it from a sober appreciation of the fairness 
of the face. 

Critically, moreover, her admission of great poppy- 
heads into her garden was objected to. She would 
squander her care on poppies, and she had been heard 
to say that, while she lived, her children should be 
fully fed. The encouragement of flaunting weeds in a 
decent garden was indicative of a moral twist that the 
expressed resolution to supply her table with plenti- 
ful nourishment, no matter whence it came, or how pro- 
vided, sufficiently confirmed. The reason with which 
she was stated to have fortified her stern resolve was 
of the irritating order, right in the abstract, and utterly 
unprincipled in the application. She said, 'Good 
bread, and good beef, and enough of both, make good 
blood ; and my children shall be stout.' This is such 
a thing as may be announced by foreign princesses 

3 




RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER and rulers over serfs ; but English Wrexby, in cogi- 
The Kentish *^*^ve mood, demanded an equivalent for its beef and 
Family divers economies consumed by the hungry children 
of the authoritative woman. Practically it was 
obedient, for it had got the habit of supplying her. 
Though payment was long in arrear, the arrears were 
not treated as lost ones by Mrs. Fleming, who, with- 
out knowing it, possessed one main secret for master- 
ing the custodians of credit. She had a considerate 
remembrance and regard for the most distant of her 
debts, so that she seemed to be only always a little late, 
and exceptionally wrong-headed in theory. Wrexby, 
therefore, acquiesced in helping to build up her chil- 
dren to stoutness, and but for the blindness of all 
people, save artists, poets, novelists, to the grandeur 
of their own creations, the inhabitants of this Kentish 
village might have had an enjoyable pride in the 
beauty and robust grace of the young girls — fair-haired, 
black-haired girls, a kindred contrast, like fire and 
smoke, to look upon. In stature, in bearing, and in 
expression, they were, if I may adopt the eloquent 
modern manner of eulogy, strikingly above their class. 
They carried erect shoulders, like creatures not 
ashamed of showing a merely animal pride, which is 
never quite apart from the pride of developed beauty. 
They were as upright as Oriental girls, whose heads 
are nobly poised from carrying the pitcher to the well. 
Dark Rhoda might have passed for Rachel, and Dahlia 
called her Rachel. They tossed one another their 
mutual compliments, drawn from the chief book of 
their reading. Queen of Sheba was Dahlia's title. No 
master of callisthenics could have set them up better 
than their mother's receipt for making good blood, 
4 



RHODA FLEMING 

combined with a certain harmony of their systems, chapter 
had done; nor could a schoolmistress have taught jhe Kentish 
them correcter speaking. The characteristic of girls Family 
having a disposition to rise, is to be cravingly mimetic ; 
and they remembered, and crooned over, till by degrees 
they adopted the phrases and manner of speech of 
highly grammatical people, such as the rector and his 
lady, and of people in story books, especially of the 
courtly French fairy-books, wherein the princes talk 
in periods as sweetly rounded as are their silken 
calves ; nothing less than angelically, so as to be a 
model to ordinary men. 

The idea of love upon the lips of ordinary men, pro- 
voked Dahlia's irony ; and the youths of Wrexby and 
Fenhurst had no chance against her secret Prince 
Florizels. Them she endowed with no pastoral qualities; 
on the contrary, she conceived that such pure young 
gentlemen were only to be seen, and perhaps met, in 
the great and mystic City of London. Naturally, the 
girls dreamed of London. To educate themselves, 
they copied out whole pages of a book called the 
* Field of Mars,' which was next to the family Bible in 
size among the volumes of the farmer's small library. 
The deeds of the heroes of this book, and the talk of 
the fairy princes, were assimilated in their minds and 
as they looked around them upon millers', farmers', 
maltsters', and tradesmen's sons, the thought of what 
manner of youth would propose to marry them became 
a precocious tribulation. Rhoda, at the age of fifteen, 
was distracted by it, owing to her sister's habit of 
masking her own dismal internal forebodings on the 
subject, under the guise of a settled anxiety concern- 
ing her sad chance. 

5 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER In dress, the wife of the rector of Wrexby was their 
The Kentish ^^^^^^' There came once to Squire Blancove^s unoc- 
Famiiy cupicd pcw a dazzling vision of a fair lady. They 
heard that she was a cousin of his third wife, and a 
widow, Mrs. Lovell by name. They looked at her all 
through the service, and the lady certainly looked at 
them in return ; nor could they, with any distinctness, 
imagine why, but the look dwelt long in their hearts, 
and often afterward, when Dahlia, upon taking her 
seat in church, shut her eyes, according to custom, she 
strove to conjure up the image of herself, as she had 
appeared to the beautiful woman in the dress of grey- 
shot silk, with violet mantle and green bonnet, rose- 
trimmed ; and the picture she conceived was the one 
she knew herself by, for many ensuing years. 

Mrs. Fleming fought her battle with a heart worthy 
of her countrywomen, and with as much success as the 
burden of a despondent husband would allow to her. 
William John Fleming was simply a poor farmer, for 
whom the wheels of the world went too fast: a big 
man, appearing to be difficult to kill, though deeply 
smitten. His cheeks bloomed in spite of lines and 
stains, and his large, quietly-dilated, brown ox-eyes, 
that never gave out a meaning, seldom showed as if 
they had taken one from what they saw. Until his 
wife was lost to him, he believed that he had a mighty 
grievance against her ; but as he was not wordy, and 
was by nature kind, it was her comfort to die and 
not to know it. This grievance was rooted in the 
idea that she was ruinously extravagant. The sight 
of the plentiful table was sore to him ; the hungry 
mouths, though he grudged to his offspring nothing 
that he could pay for, were an afflicting prospect. 
6 



RHODA FLEMING 

* Plump 'em up, and make 'em dainty,' he advanced chapter 
in contravention of his wife's talk of bread and beef. ^j^^ Kentish 

But he did not complain. If it came to an argument. Family 
the farmer sidled into a secure corner of prophecy, 
and bade his wife to see what would come of having 
dainty children. He could not deny that bread and 
beef made blood, and were cheaper than the port-wine 
which doctors were in the habit of ordering for this 
and that delicate person in the neighbourhood ; so he 
was compelled to have recourse to secret discontent. 
The attention, the time, and the trifles of money shed 
upon the flower-garden, were hardships easier to bear. 
He liked flowers, and he liked to hear the praise of his 
wife's horticultural skill. The garden was a distin- 
guishing thing to the farm, and when on a Sunday 
he walked home from church among full June roses, 
he felt the odour of them to be so like his imagined 
sensations of prosperity, that the deception was worth 
its cost. Yet the garden in its bloom revived a cruel 
blow. His wife had once wounded his vanity. The 
massed vanity of a silent man, when it does take a 
wound, desires a giant's vengeance ; but as one can 
scarcely seek to enjoy that monstrous gratification 
when one's wife is the offender, the farmer escaped 
from his dilemma by going apart into a turnip-field, 
and swearing, with his fist outstretched, never to 
forget it. His wife had asked him, seeing that the 
garden flourished and the farm decayed, to yield the 
labour of the farm to the garden ; in fact, to turn 
nurseryman under his wife's direction. The woman 
could not see that her garden drained the farm al- 
ready, distracted the farm, and most evidently im- 
poverished him. She could not understand, that in 

7 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER permitting her, while he sweated fruitlessly, to give 
The Kentish l^^^self Up to the occupation of a lady, he had followed 
Family the promptings of his native kindness, and certainly 
not of his native wisdom. That she should deem 
herself * best man ' of the two, and suggest his 
stamping his name to such an opinion before the 
world, was an outrage. 

Mrs. Fleming was failing in health. On that plea, 
with the solemnity suited to the autumn of her 
allotted days, she persuaded her husband to adver- 
tise for an assistant, who would pay a small sum 
of money to learn sound farming, and hear argu- 
ments in favour of the Corn Laws. To please her, 
he threw seven shillings away upon an advertisement, 
and laughed when the advertisement was answered, 
remarking that he doubted much whether good would 
come of dealings with strangers. A young man, 
calling himself Robert Armstrong, underwent a pre- 
sentation to the family. He paid the stipulated sum, 
and was soon enrolled as one of them. He was of 
a guardsman's height and a cricketer's suppleness, 
a drinker of water, and apparently the victim of a 
dislike of his species ; for he spoke of the great 
night-lighted city with a horror that did not seem 
to be an estimable point in him, as judged by a pair 
of damsels for whom the mysterious metropolis flew 
with fiery fringes through dark space, in their dreams. 
In other respects, the stranger was well thought of, 
as being handsome and sedate. He talked fondly of 
one friend that he had, an officer in the army, which 
was considered pardonably vain. He did not reach 
to the ideal of his sex which had been formed by 
the sisters ; but Mrs. Fleming, trusting to her divina- 
8 



RHODA FLEMING 

tion of his sex's character, whispered a mother's chapter 
word about him to her husband a little while before jhe Kentish 
her death. Family 

It was her prayer to heaven that she might save 
a doctor's bill. She died, without lingering illness, 
in her own beloved month of June ; the roses of her 
tending at the open window, and a soft breath floating 
up to her from the garden. On the foregoing May-day, 
she had sat on the green that fronted the iron gate- 
way, when Dahlia and Rhoda dressed the children of 
*the village in garlands, and crowned the fairest little 
one queen of May : a sight that revived in Mrs. Flem- 
ing's recollection the time of her own eldest and 
fairest taking homage, shy in her white smock and 
light thick curls. The gathering was large, and the 
day was of the old nature of May, before tyrannous 
East-winds had captured it and spoiled its consecra- 
tion. The mill-stream of the neighbouring mill ran 
blue among the broad green pastures ; the air smelt 
of cream-bowls and wheaten loaves; the firs on the 
beacon-ridge, far Southward, over Fenhurst and Helm 
villages, were transported nearer to see the show, and 
stood like friends anxious to renew acquaintance. 
Dahlia and Rhoda taught the children to perceive how 
they resembled bent old beggarmen. The two stone- 
pines in the miller's grounds were likened by them to 
Adam and Eve turning away from the blaze of Para- 
dise ; and the saying of one receptive child, that they 
had nothing but hair on, made the illustration undying 
both to Dahlia and Rhoda. 

The magic of the weather brought numerous butter- 
flies afield, and one fiddler, to whose tuning the little 
women danced ; others closer upon womanhood would 

9 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER have danced likewise, if the sisters had taken partners ; 

The Kentish ^^* Dahlia was restrained by the sudden consciousness 
Family that shc was under the immediate observation of two 
manifestly London gentlemen, and she declined to be 
led forth by Robert Armstrong. The intruders were 
youths of good countenance, known to be the son and 
the nephew of Squire Blancove of Wrexby Hall. They 
remained for some time watching the scene, and 
destroyed Dahlia's single-mindedness. Like many days 
of gaiety, the Gods consenting, this one had its human 
shadow. There appeared on the borders of the festivity 
a young woman, the daughter of a Wrexby cottager, 
who had left her home and but lately returned to it, 
with a spotted name. No one addressed her, and she 
stood humbly apart. Dahlia, seeing that every one 
moved away from her, whispering with satisfied nod- 
dings, wished to draw her in among the groups. She 
mentioned the name of Mary Burt to her father, sup- 
posing that so kind a man would not fail to sanction 
her going up to the neglected young woman. To her 
surprise, her father became violently enraged, and 
uttered a stern prohibition, speaking a word that 
stained her cheeks. Rhoda was by her side, and she 
wilfully, without asking leave, went straight over to 
Mary, and stood with her under the shadow of the 
Adam and Eve, until the farmer sent a messenger to 
say that he was about to enter the house. Her punish- 
ment for the act of sinfulness was a week of severe 
silence ; and the farmer would have kept her to it 
longer, but for her mother's ominously growing weak- 
ness. The sisters were strangely overclouded by this 
incident. They could not fathom the meaning of their 
father's unkindness, coarseness, and indignation. Why, 
10 



RHODA FLEMING 

and why? they asked one another, blankly. The chapter 
Scriptures were harsh in one part, but was the teach- „^ J ,. ^ 

^ -^ ' The Kentish 

ing to continue so after the Atonement ? By degrees Family 
they came to reflect, and not in a mild spirit, that 
the kindest of men can be cruel, and will forget their 
Christianity toward offending and repentant women. 



CHAPTER II 

Queen Anne's Farm 

Mrs. Fleming had a brother in London, who had run 
away from his Kentish home when a small boy, and 
found refuge at a Bank. The position of Anthony 
Hackbut in that celebrated establishment, and the 
degree of influence exercised by him there, were things 
unknown ; but he had stuck to the Bank for a great 
number of years, and he had once confessed to his 
sister that he was not a beggar. Upon these joint 
facts the farmer speculated, deducing from them that a 
man in a London Bank, holding money of his own, 
must have learnt the ways of turning it over — farming 
golden ground, as it were ; consequently, that amount 
must now have increased to a very considerable sum. 
You ask. What amount ? But one who sits brooding 
upon a pair of facts for years, with the imperturbable 
gravity of creation upon chaos, will be as successful 
in evoking the concrete from the abstract. The farmer 
saw round figures among the possessions of the family, 
and he assisted mentally in this money-turning of 
Anthony's, counted his gains for him, disposed his 
risks, and eyed the pile of visionary gold with an 

11 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER interest so remote, that he was almost correct in call- 

II • • 

Queen Anne's ^^S ^^ disinterested. The brothers-in-law had a mutual 
Farm plea of expense that kept them separate. When 
Anthony refused, on petition, to advance one hundred 
pounds to the farmer, there was ill blood to divide 
them. Queen Anne's Farm missed the flourishing 
point by one hundred pounds exactly. With that 
addition to its exchequer, it would have made head 
against its old enemy. Taxation, and started rejuvenes- 
cent. But the Radicals were in power to legislate and 
crush agriculture, and * I 've got a miser for my brother- 
in-law,' said the farmer. Alas ! the hundred pounds 
to back him, he could have sowed what he pleased, 
and when it pleased him, partially defying the cap- 
ricious clouds and their treasures, and playing tune- 
fully upon his land, his own land. Instead of which, 
and while too keenly aware that the one hundred 
would have made excesses in any direction tributary 
to his pocket, the poor man groaned at continuous 
falls of moisture, and when rain was prayed for in 
church, he had to be down on his knees, praying 
heartily with the rest of the congregation. It was 
done, and bitter reproaches were cast upon Anthony 
for the enforced necessity to do it. 

On the occasion of his sister's death, Anthony in- 
formed his bereaved brother-in-law that he could not 
come down to follow the hearse as a mourner. * My 
place is one of great trust,' he said, * and I cannot be 
spared.' He offered, however, voluntarily to pay half 
the expenses of the funeral, stating the limit of the 
cost. It is unfair to sound any man's springs of action 
critically while he is being tried by a sorrow ; and the 
farmer's angry rejection of Anthony's offer of aid must 
12 



RHODA FLEMING 

pass. He remarked in his letter of reply, that his wife's chapter 
funeral should cost no less than he chose to expend Queen Anne's 
on it. He breathed indignant fumes against 'inter- Farm 
ferences.' He desired Anthony to know that he also 
was * not a beggar,' and that he would not be treated 
as one. The letter showed a solid yeoman's . fist. 
Farmer Fleming told his chums, and the shopkeeper 
of Wrexby, with whom he came into converse, that 
he would honour his dead wife up to his last penny. 
Some month or so afterward it was generally con- 
jectured that he had kept his word. 

Anthony's rejoinder was characterized by a marked 
humility. He expressed contrition for the farmer's 
misunderstanding of his motives. His fathomless 
conscience had plainly been reached. He wrote again, 
without waiting for an answer, speaking of the Funds 
indeed, but only to pronounce them worldly things, 
and hoping that they all might meet in heaven, where 
brotherly love, as well as money, was ready made, and 
not always in the next street. A hint occurred that it 
would be a gratification to him to be invited down, 
whether he could come or no ; for holidays were ex- 
pensive, and journeys by rail had to be thought over 
before they were undertaken ; and when you are away 
from your post, you never knew who may be supplant- 
ing you. He did not promise that he could come, but 
frankly stated his susceptibility to the friendliness of 
an invitation. The feeling indulged by Farmer Fleming 
in refusing to notice Anthony's advance toward a re- 
conciliation, was, on the whole, not creditable to him. 
Spite is more often fattened than propitiated by peni- 
tence. He may have thought besides (policy not being 
always a vacant space in revengeful acts) that Anthony 

13 




RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER was capable of something stronger and warmer, now. 
Queen Anne's ^^^^ ^^^ humanity had been aroused. The speculation 
Farm fg commonly perilous ; but Farmer Fleming had the 
desperation of a man who has run slightly into debt, 
and has heard the first din of dunning, which to the 
unaccustomed imagination is fearful as bankruptcy 
(shorn of the horror of the word). And, moreover, 
it was so wonderful to find Anthony displaying 
humanity at all, that anything might be expected of 
him. * Let *s see what he will do,' thought the farmer 
in an interval of his wrath ; and the wrath is very 
new which has none of these cool intervals. The 
passions, do but watch them, are all more or less 
intermittent. 

As it chanced, he acted sagaciously, for Anthony at 
last wrote to say that his home in London was cheer- 
less, and that he intended to move into fresh and airier 
lodgings, where the presence of a discreet young house- 
keeper, who might wish to see London, and make 
acquaintance with the world, would be agreeable to 
him. His project was that one of his nieces should 
fill this office, and he requested his brother-in-law to 
reflect on it, and to think of him as of a friend of the 
family, now and in the time to come. Anthony spoke 
of the seductions of London quite unctuously. Who 
could imagine this to be the letter of an old crabbed 
miser? *Tell her,' he said, * there's fruit at stalls at 
every street-corner all the year through — oysters and 
whelks, if she likes — winkles, lots of pictures in shops 
— a sight of muslin and silks, and rides on omnibuses 
— bands of all sorts, and now and then we can take 
a walk to see the military on horseback, if she 's for 
soldiers.' Indeed, he joked quite comically in speaking 
14 



RHODA FLEMING 

of the famous horse-guards — warriors who sit on their chapter 
horses to be looked at, and do not mind it, because Queen Anne's 
they are trained so thoroughly. < Horse-guards blue. Farm 
and horse-guards red,' he wrote — *the blue only want 
boiling.' There is reason to suppose that his dis- 
respectful joke was not original in him, but it dis- 
played his character in a fresh light. Of course, if 
either of the girls was to go. Dahlia was the person. 
The farmer commenced his usual process of sitting 
upon the idea. That it would be policy to attach one 
of the family to this chirping old miser, he thought 
incontestable. On the other hand, he had a dread 
of London, and Dahlia was surpassingly fair. He put 
the case to Robert, in remembrance of what his wife 
had spoken, hoping that Robert would amorously stop 
his painful efforts to think fast enough for the occasion. 
Robert, however, had nothing to say, and seemed will- 
ing to let Dahlia depart. The only opponents to the 
plan were Mrs. Sumfit, a kindly, humble relative of the 
farmer's, widowed out of Sussex, very loving and fat ; 
the cook to the household, whose waist was dimly 
indicated by her apron-string ; and, to aid her outcries, 
the silently-protesting Master Gammon, an old man 
with the cast of eye of an antediluvian lizard, the 
slowest old man of his time — a sort of foreman of 
the farm before Robert had come to take matters in 
hand, and thrust both him and his master into the 
background. Master Gammon remarked emphatically, 
once and for all, that * he never had much opinion of 
London.' As he. had never visited London, his opinion 
was considered the less weighty, but, as he advanced 
no further speech, the sins and backslidings of the 
metropolis were strongly brought to mind by his con- 

15 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER demnatory utterance. Policy and Dahlia's entreaties 
Queen^Anne's ^* ^^®* prevailed with the farmer, and so the fair girl 
Farm Went Up to the great city. 

After months of a division that was like the division 
of her living veins, and when the comfort of letters 
was getting cold, Rhoda having previously pledged 
herself to secresy, though she could not guess why 
it was commanded, received a miniature portrait of 
Dahlia, so beautiful that her envy of London for 
holding her sister away from her, melted in gratitude. 
She had permission to keep the portrait a week; it 
was impossible to forbear from showing it to Mrs. 
Sumfit, who peeped in awe, and that emotion sub- 
siding, shed tears abundantly. Why it was to be 
kept secret, they failed to inquire ; the mystery was 
possibly not without its delights to them. Tears 
were shed again when the portrait had to be packed 
up and despatched. Rhoda lived on abashed by the 
adorable new refinement of Dahlia's features, and 
her heart yearned to her uncle for so caring to 
decorate the lovely face. 

One day Rhoda was at her bedroom window, on the 
point of descending to encounter the daily dumpling, 
which was the principal and the unvarying item of the 
mid-day meal of the house, when she beheld a stranger 
trying to turn the handle of the iron gate. Her heart 
thumped. She divined correctly that it was her uncle. 
Dahlia had now been absent for very many months, 
and Rhoda's growing fretfulness sprang the conviction 
in her mind that something closer than letters must 
soon be coming. She ran downstairs, and along the 
gravel-path. He was a little man, square-built, and 
looking as if he had worn to toughness ; with an 
16 



RHODA FLEMING 

evident Sunday suit on : black, and black gloves, chapter 
though the day was only antecedent to Sunday. oueen^Anne's 

* Let me help you, sir,' she said, and her hands came Farm 
in contact with his, and were squeezed. 

* How is my sister ? ' She had no longer any fear in 
asking. 

* Now, you let me through, first,* he replied, imitating 
an arbitrary juvenile. * You 're as tight locked in as 
if you was in dread of all the thieves of London. You 
ain't afraid o' me, miss ? I 'm not the party generally 
outside of a fortification ; I ain't, I can assure you. 
I 'm a defence party, and a reg'lar lion when I 've got 
the law backing me.' 

He spoke in a queer, wheezy voice, like a cracked 
flute, combined with the effect of an ill-resined fiddle- 
bow. 

* You are in the garden of Queen Anne's Farm,' said 
Rhoda. 

* And you 're my pretty little niece, are you ? " the 
darkie lass," as your father says. "Little," says I; 
why, you needn't be ashamed to stand beside a 
grenadier. Trust the country for growing fine gals.' 

* You are my uncle, then ? ' said Rhoda. * Tell 
me how my sister is. Is she well? Is she quite 
happy ? ' 

* Dahly ? ' returned old Anthony slowly. 

* Yes, yes ; my sister ! ' Rhoda looked at him with 
distressful eagerness. 

* Now, don't you be uneasy about your sister Dahly.' 
Old Anthony, as he spoke, fixed his small brown eyes 
on the girl, and seemed immediately to have departed 
far away in speculation. A question recalled him. 

* Is her health good ? ' 

9— B 17 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER * Ay ; stomach 's good, head 's good, lungs, brain, what 
Queen" nne's ^^^^ ^^^ ^ood. She 's a bit giddy, that 's all.' 
Farm < In her head ? * 

* Ay ; and on her pins. Never you mind. You look 
a steady one, my dear. I shall take to you, I think.' 

*But my sister ' Rhoda was saying, when the 

farmer came out, and sent a greeting from the threshold : 
'Brother Tony!' 

* Here he is, brother William John.' 

'Surely, and so he is, at last.' The farmer walked 
up to him with his hand out. 

' And it ain't too late, I hope. Eh ? ' 

* It 's never too late — to mend,' said the farmer. 

* Eh ? not my manners, eh ? ' Anthony struggled to 
keep up the ball ; and in this way they got over the 
confusion of the meeting after many years and some 
differences. 

'Made acquaintance with Rhoda, I see,' said the 
farmer, as they turned to go in. 

' The " darkie lass " you write of. She 's like a coal 
nigh a candle. She looks, as you 'd say, " t' other side 
of her sister." Yes, we 've had a talk.' 

'Just in time for dinner, brother Tony. We ain't 
got much to offer, but what there is, is at your service. 
Step aside with me.' 

The farmer got Anthony out of hearing a moment, 
questioned, and was answered : after which he looked 
less anxious, but a trifle perplexed, and nodded his 
head as Anthony occasionally lifted his, to enforce 
certain points in some halting explanation. You 
would have said that a debtor was humbly putting 
his case in his creditor's ear, and could only now 
and then summon courage to meet the censorious 
18 



RHODA FLEMING 

eyes. They went in to Mrs. Sumfit's shout that the chapter 
dumplings were out of the pot : old Anthony bowed Queen Anne's 
upon the announcement of his name, and all took Farm 
seats. But it was not the same sort of dinner-hour 
as that which the inhabitants of the house were 
accustomed to ; there was conversation. 

The farmer asked Anthony by what conveyance he 
had come. Anthony shyly, but not without evident 
self-approbation, related how, having come by the 
train, he got into conversation with the driver of 
a fly at a station, who advised him of a cart that 
would be passing near Wrexby. For threepenny- 
worth of beer, he had got a friendly introduction to 
the carman, who took him within two miles of the 
farm for one shilling, a distance of fifteen miles. That 
was pretty good ! 

*Home pork, brother Tony,' said the farmer approv- 
ingly. 

* And home-made bread, too, brother William John,' 
said Anthony, becoming brisk. 

* Ay, and the beer, such as it is.' The farmer drank 
and sighed. 

Anthony tried the beer, remarking — * That 's good 
beer ; it don't cost much.' 

' It ain't adulterated. By what I read of your 
London beer, this stuff's not so bad, if you bear 
in mind it 's pure. Pure 's my motto. " Pure, though 
poor ! " ' 

* Up there, you pay for rank poison,' said Anthony. 
* So, what do I do ? I drink water and thank 'em, 
that 's wise.' 

* Saves stomach and purse.' The farmer put a little 
stress on * purse.' 

19 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER * Yes, I calculate I save threepence a day in beer alone,* 
Queen" nne's ^aid Anthony. 

Farm < Three times seven 's twenty-one, ain't it ? ' 

Mr. Fleming said this, and let out his elbow in a 
small perplexity, as Anthony took him up: — ^And 
fifty-two times twenty-one ? ' 

< Well, that 's, that 's — how much is that, Mas' Gam- 
mon ? ' the farmer asked in a bellow. 

Master Gammon was laboriously and steadily en- 
gaged in tightening himself with dumpling. He 
relaxed his exertions sufficiently to take this new 
burden on his brain, and immediately cast it off. 

*Ah never thinks when I feeds — Ah was al'ays a 
bad hand at 'counts. Gi'es it up.' 

'Why, you're like a horse that never was rode! 
Try again, old man,' said the farmer. 

*If I drags a cart,' Master Gammon replied, *that 
ain't no reason why I should leap a gate.' 

The farmer felt that he was worsted as regarded the 
illustration, and with a bit of the boy's fear of the 
pedagogue, he fought Anthony off by still pressing 
the arithmetical problem upon Master Gammon, until 
the old man, goaded to exasperation, rolled out thun- 
deringly — 

* If I works for ye, that ain't no reason why I should 
think for ye,' which caused him to be left in peace. 

* Eh, Robert ? ' the farmer transferred the question ; 

* Come ! what is it ? ' 

Robert begged a minute's delay, while Anthony 
watched him with hawk eyes. 

' I tell you what it is — it 's pounds,' said Robert. 
This tickled Anthony, who let him escape, crying : 

* Capital ! Pounds it is in your pocket, sir, and you 

20 



RHODA FLEMING 

hit that neatly, I will say. Let it be five. You out chapter 
with your five at interest, compound interest ; soon Queen Anne's 
comes another five ; treat it the same : in ten years — Farm 
eh? and then you got into figures; you swim in 
figures ! ' 

* I should think you did ! ' said the farmer, winking 
slyly. 

Anthony caught the smile, hesitated and looked 
shrewd, and then covered his confusion by holding 
his plate to Mrs. Sumfit for a help. The manifest 
evasion and mute declaration that dumpling said 
* mum ' on that head, gave the farmer a quiet glow. 

* When you are ready to tell me all about my darlin', 
sir,' Mrs. Sumfit suggested coaxingly. 

* After dinner, mother — after dinner,' said the farmer. 

* And we 're waitin', are we, till them dumplings is 
finished ? ' she exclaimed piteously, with a glance at 
Master Gammon's plate. 

* After dinner we '11 have a talk, mother.' 

Mrs. Sumfit feared from this delay that there was 
queer news to be told of Dahlia's temper; but she 
longed for the narrative no whit the less, and again 
cast a sad eye on the leisurely proceedings of Master 
Gammon. The veteran was still calmly tightening. 
His fork was on end, with a vast mouthful impaled 
on the prongs. Master Gammon, a thoughtful eater, 
was always last at the meal, and a latent, deep-lying 
irritation at Mrs. Sumfit for her fidgetiness, day after 
day, toward the finish of the dish, added a relish to 
his engulphing of the monstrous morsel. He looked 
at her steadily, like an ox of the fields, and consumed 
it, and then holding his plate out, in a remorseless 
way, said, * You make 'em so good, marm.' 

21 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Mrs. Sumfit, fretted as she was, was not impervious 
Queen Anne's *^ *^® sound sense of the remark, as well as to the 
Farm compliment. 

*I don't want to hurry you, Mas' Gammon,' she said; 
* Lord knows, I like to see you and everybody eat his 
full and be thankful ; but, all about my Dahly waitin', 
— I feel pricked wi' a pin all over, I do ; and there 's 
my blessed in London,' she answered, * and we know- 
in' nothin' of her, and one close by to tell me! I 
never did feel what slow things dumplin's was, afore 
now! ' 

The kettle simmered gently on the hob. Every 
other knife and fork was silent ; so was every tongue. 
Master Gammon ate and the kettle hummed. Twice 
Mrs. Sumfit sounded a despairing, * Oh, deary me ! ' but 
it was useless. No human power had ever yet driven 
Master Gammon to a demonstration of haste or to any 
acceleration of the pace he had chosen for himself. 
At last, she was not to be restrained from crying out, 
almost tearfully : 

*When do you think you'll have done, Mas' Gam- 
mon?' 

Thus pointedly addressed, Master Gammon laid 
down his knife and fork. He half raised his pon- 
derous, curtaining eyelids, and replied : 

* When I feels my buttons, marm.' 

After which he deliberately fell to work again. 

Mrs. Sumfit dropped back in her chair as from a 
blow. 

But even dumplings, though they resist so doggedly 

' for a space, do ultimately submit to the majestic 

march of Time, and move. Master Gammon cleared 

his plate. There stood in the dish still half a dump- 

22 



RHODA FLEMING 

ling. The farmer and Rhoda, deeming that there had chapter 
been a show of inhospitality, pressed him to make Queen Anne'' 
away with this forlorn remainder. Farm 

The vindictive old man, who was as tight as dump- 
ling and buttons could make him, refused it in a 
drooping tone, and went forth, looking at none. Mrs. 
Sumfit turned to all parties, and begged them to say 
what more, to please Master Gammon, she could have 
done ? When Anthony was ready to speak of her 
Dahlia, she obtruded this question in utter doleful- 
ness. Robert was kindly asked by the farmer to 
take a pipe among them. Rhoda put a chair for 
him, but he thanked them both, and said he could 
not neglect some work to be done in the fields. 
She thought that he feared pain from hearing 
Dahlia's name, and followed him with her eyes com- 
miseratingly. 

'Does that young fellow attend to business?* said 
Anthony. 

The farmer praised Robert as a rare hand, but one 
affected with bees in his nightcap : who had ideas of 
his own about farming, and was obstinate with them ; 
* pays you due respect, but 's got a notion as how his 
way of thinking 's better 'n his seniors. It 's the style 
now with all young folks. Makes a butt of old Mas* 
Gammon; laughs at the old man. It ain't respectful 
t' age, I say. Gammon don't understand nothing about 
new feeds for sheep, and dam nonsense about growing 
such things as melons, fiddle-faddle, for 'em. Robert 's 
a beginner. What he knows, I taught the young 
fellow. Then, my question is, where 's his ideas come 
from, if they 're contrary to mine ? If they 're contrary 
to mine, they 're contrary to my teaching. Well, then, 

23 



RHODA FLEMING 

what are they worth? He can't see that. He's a 
good one at work — I '11 say so much for him.' 
Old Anthony gave Rhoda a pat on the shoulder. 



CHAPTER III 
Suggests the Might of the Money Demon 

'Pipes in the middle of the day's regular revelry,' 
ejaculated Anthony, whose way of holding the curved 
pipe-stem displayed a mind bent on reckless enjoy- 
ment, and said as much as a label issuing from his 
mouth, like a figure in a comic woodcut of the old 
style : — * that 's,' he pursued, * that 's if you haven't got 
to look up at the clock every two minutes, as if the 
devil was after you. But, sitting here, you know, the 
afternoon's a long evening; nobody's your master. 
You can on wi' your slippers, up wi' your legs, talk, 
or go for'ard, counting, twicing, and threetimesing ; 
by George ! I should take to drinking beer if I had my 
afternoons to myself in the city, just for the sake of 
sitting and doing sums in a tap-room ; if it 's a big tap- 
room, with pew sort o' places, and dark red curtains, 
a fire, and a smell of sawdust, ale, and tobacco, and 
a boy going by outside whistling a tune of the day. 
Somebody comes in. " Ah, there 's an idle old chap," 
he says to himself (meaning me), and where, I should 
like to ask him, 'd his head be if he sat there dividing 
two hundred and fifty thousand by forty-five and a 
half!' 

The farmer nodded encouragingly. He thought it 
not improbable that a short operation with these 
24 



RHODA FLEMING 

numbers would give the sum in Anthony's possession, chapter 
the exact calculation of his secret hoard, and he set c "* *t. 

, w «wv Suggests the 

to work to stamp them on his brain, which rendered Might of the 
him absent in manner, while Mrs. Sumfit mixed liquor ^o°^y^««^o» 
with hot water, and pushed at his knee, doubling in 
her enduring lips, and lengthening her eyes to aim 
a side-glance of reprehension at Anthony's wandering 
loquacity. 

Rhoda could bear it no more. 

'Now let me hear of my sister, uncle,' she said. 

* I '11 tell you what,' Anthony responded, * she hasn't 
got such a pretty sort of a sweet blackbirdy voice as 
you 've got.' 

The girl blushed scarlet. 

* Oh, she can mount them colours, too,' said 
Anthony. 

His way of speaking of Dahlia indicated that he and 
she had enough of one another; but of the peculiar 
object of his extraordinary visit not even the farmer 
had received a hint. Mrs. Sumfit ventured to think 
aloud that his grog was not stiff enough, but he took 
a gulp under her eyes, and smacked his lips after it in 
a most convincing manner. 

* Ah ! that stuff wouldn't do for me in London, half- 
holiday or no half-holiday,' said Anthony. 

' Why not ? ' the farmer asked. 

* I should be speculating — deep — couldn't hold 
myself in: — Mexicans, Peroovians, Venzeshoolians, 
Spaniards, at 'em I should go. I see bonds in all sorts 
of colours, Spaniards in black and white, Peruvians — 
orange, Mexicans — red as the British army. Well, it 's 
just my whim. If I like red, I go at red. I ain't a bit 
of reason. What 's more, I never speculate.' 

25 



Money Demon 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER < Why, that 's safest, brother Tony,' said the farmer. 

Suggests the * ^^^ Safe *s my game — always was, always will be ! 

Might of the Do you think ' — Anthony sucked his grog to the sugar- 
dregs, till the spoon settled on his nose — * do you 
think I should hold the position I do hold, be trusted 
as I am trusted? Ah! you don't know much about 
that. Should I have money placed in my hands, do 
you think — and it's thousands at a time, gold, and 
notes, and cheques — if I was a risky chap? I'm 
known to be thoroughly respectable. Five and forty 
years I 've been in Boyne's Bank, and thank ye, ma'am, 
grog don't do no harm down here. And I will take 
another glass. " When the heart of a man ! " — but I 'm 
no singer.' 

Mrs. Sumfit simpered, * 'Hem ; it 's the heart of a 
woman, too : and she have one, and it 's dying to hear 
of her darlin' blessed in town, and of who cuts her 
hair, and where she gets her gownds, and whose 

pills ' 

The farmer interrupted her irritably. 

* Divide a couple o' hundred thousand and more by 
forty-five and a half,' he said. * Do wait, mother ; all in 
good time. Forty-five and a half, brother Tony ; that 
was your sum — ah ! — you mentioned it some time back 
— half of what ? Is that half a fraction, as they call 
it? I haven't forgot fractions, and logareems, and 
practice, and so on to algebrae, where it always seems 
to me to blow hard, for, whizz goes my head in a jiffy, 
as soon as I 've mounted the ladder to look into that 
country. How 'bout that forty-five and a half, brother 
Tony, if you don't mind condescending to explain ? ' 

* Forty-five and a half? ' muttered Anthony, iftystified. 

* Oh, never mind, you know, if you don't like to say, 
26 



RHODA FLEMING 

brother Tony.' The farmer touched him up with his chapter 

pipe-stem. suggeLthe 

<Five and a half,* Anthony speculated. * That's a Might of the 
fraction you got hold of, brother William John :— r^''^'^ ^^°'*'" 
remember the parson calling out those names at your 
wedding : " I, William John, take thee, Susan " : yes, 
that 's a fraction, but what 's the good of it ? ' 

* What I mean is, it ain't forty-five and half of forty- 
five. Half of one, eh? That's /dentical with a frac- 
tion. One — a stroke — and two under it.' 

* You 've got it correct,' Anthony assented. 

* How many thousand divide it by ? ' 

* Divide what by, brother William John ? I 'm beat.' 

* Ah ! out comes the keys : lock up everything : it 's 
time ! ' the farmer laughed, rather proud of his brother- 
in-law's perfect wakefulness after two stiff tumblers. 
He saw that Anthony was determined with all due 
friendly feeling to let no one know the sum in his 
possession. 

'If it's four o'clock, it is time to lock up,' said 
Anthony, * and bang to go the doors, and there 's the 
money for thieves to dream of — they can't %<^t a-nigh 
it, let them dream as they like. What's the hour, 
ma'am ? ' 

* Not three, it ain't,' returned Mrs. Sumfit, ' and do be 
good creatures, and begin about my Dahly, and where 
she got that sumptious gownd, and the bonnet with 
blue flowers lyin' by on the table : now, do ! ' 

Rhoda coughed. 

*And she wears lavender gloves like a lady,' Mrs. 
Sumfit was continuing. 

Rhoda stamped on her foot. 

* Oh ! cruel ! ' the comfortable old woman snapped 

27 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER in pain, as she applied her hand to the inconsolable 

Suggests the ^^* ^^o*> ^^^ nursed it. * What 's roused ye, you tiger 

Might of the girl ? I sha'n't be able to get about, I sha'n% and then 

oney emon ^^^ ,^ ^^ cook for ye all ? For you 're as ignorant as 

a raw kitchen wench, and knows nothing.' 

*Come, Dody, you're careless,' the farmer spoke 
chidingly through Mrs. Sumfit's lamentations. 

* She stops uncle Anthony when he 's just ready, 
father,' said Rhoda. 

'Do you want to know?' Anthony set his small eyes 
on her : * do you want to know, my dear ? ' He paused, 
fingering his glass, and went on : 'I, Susan, take thee, 
William John, and you 've come of it. Says I to my- 
self, when I hung sheepish by your mother and by 
your father, my dear, says I to myself, I ain't a marry- 
ing man : and if these two, says I, if any progeny comes 
to 'em — to bless them, some people 'd say, but I know 
what life is, and what young ones are — if — where was 
I ? Liquor makes you talk, brother William John, but 
where 's your ideas ? Gone, like hard cash ! What 
I meant was, I felt I might some day come for'ard 
' and help the issue of your wife's weddin', and wasn't 
such a shady object among you after all. My pipe 's 
out.' 

Rhoda stood up and filled the pipe, and lit it in 
silence. She divined that the old man must be 
allowed to run on in his own way, and for a long 
time he rambled, gave a picture of the wedding, and 
of a robbery of Boyne's Bank : the firm of Boyne, 
Birt, Hamble, and Company. At last, he touched on 
Dahlia. 

* What she wants, I can't make out,' he said ; * and 
what that good lady there, or somebody, made mention 

28 



Money Demon 



RHODA FLEMING 

of — how she manages to dress as she do ! I can under- chapter 
stand a little goin' a great way, if you 're clever in any suggests the 
way ; but I 'm at my tea ' : Anthony laid his hand out Might of the 
as to exhibit a picture. *I ain't a complaining man, 
and be young, if you can, I say, and walk about and 
look at shops ; but, I 'm at my tea : I come home 
rather tired : there 's the tea-things, sure enough, and 
tea 's made, and, may be, there 's a shrimp or two ; she 
attends to your creature comforts. When everything 's 
locked up and tight and right, I 'm gay, and ask for a 
bit of society : well, I 'm at my tea : I hear her foot 
thumping up and down her bedroom overhead : I know 
the meaning of that : I 'd rather hear nothing : down 
she runs : I 'm at my tea, and in she bursts.' — Here 
followed a dramatic account of Dahlia's manner of 
provocation, which was closed by the extinction of 
his pipe. 

The farmer, while his mind still hung about thou- 
sands of pounds and a certain incomprehensible 
division of them to produce a distinct intelligible 
total, and set before him the sum of Anthony's 
riches, could see that his elder daughter was behaving 
flightily and neglecting the true interests of the family, 
and he was chagrined. But Anthony, before he entered 
the house, had assured him that Dahlia was well, and 
that nothing was wrong with her. So he looked at 
Mrs. Sumfit, who now took upon herself to plead for 
Dahlia : a young thing, and such a handsome creature ! 
and we were all young some time or other ; and would 
heaven have mercy on us, if we were hard upon the 
young, do you think ? The motto of a truly religious 
man said, try 'em again. And, may be, people had 
been a little hard upon Dahlia, and the girl was apt 

29 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER to take offence. In conclusion, she appealed to 

Suggests the Rhoda to speak up for her sister. Rhoda sat in 

Might of the quiet rescrvc. 

oney emon ^^^ ^^^ ^^^^ ^^^ sistcr must bc justified in all she 
did : but the picture of the old man coming from his 
work every night to take his tea quite alone made 
her sad. She found herself unable to speak, and as 
she did not, Mrs. Sumfit had an acute twinge from her 
recently trodden foot, and called her some bitter names ; 
which was not an unusual case, for the kind old woman 
could be querulous, and belonged to the list of those 
whose hearts are as scales, so that they love not one 
person devotedly without a corresponding spirit of 
opposition to another. Rhoda merely smiled. 
By-and-by, the women left the two men alone. 
Anthony turned and struck the farmer's knee. 

* You 've got a jewel in iha^ gal, brother William 
John.* 

* Eh ! she 's a good enough lass. Not much of a 
manager, brother Tony. Too much of a thinker, I 
reckon. She's got a temper of her own too. I'm 
a bit hurt, brother Tony, about that other girl. She 
must leave London, if she don't alter. It 's flightiness ; 
that 's all. You mustn't think ill of poor Dahly. She 
was always the pretty one, and when they know it, 
they act up to it : she was her mother's favourite.' 

* Ah ! poor Susan ! an upright woman before the 
Lord.' 

* She was,' said the farmer, bowing his head. 
*And a good wife,' Anthony interjected. 

* None better — never a better ; and I wish she was 
living to look after her girls.' 

* I came through the churchyard, hard by,' said 
30 



RHODA FLEMING 

Anthony ; * and I read that writing on her tomb- chapter 

III 
stone. It went like a choke in my throat. The suggests the 

first person I saw next was her child, this young Might of the 
gal you call Rhoda ; and, thinks I to myself, you °^^^ ^"*°° 
might ask me, I'd do anything for ye — that I could, 
of course.' 

The farmer's eye had lit up, but became over- 
shadowed by the characteristic reservation. 

* Nobody 'd ask you to do more than you could,' he 
remarked, rather coldly. 

' It '11 never be much,' sighed Anthony. 

* Well, the world 's nothing, if you come to look 
at it close,' the farmer adopted a similar tone. 

^ What 's money ! ' said Anthony. 

The farmer immediately resumed his this-world- 
liness : 

*Well, it's fine to go about asking us poor devils 
to answer ye ^haT,' he said, and chuckled, conceiving 
that he had nailed Anthony down to a partial con- 
fession of his ownership of some worldly goods. 

'What do you call having money?' observed the 
latter, clearly in the trap. 'Fifty thousand ? ' 

* Whew ! ' went the farmer, as at a big draught of 
powerful stuff. 

' Ten thousand ? ' 

Mr. Fleming took this second gulp almost con- 
temptuously, but still kindly. 

'Come,' quoth Anthony, 'ten thousand's not so 
mean, you know. You're a gentleman on ten thou- 
sand. So, on five. I '11 tell ye, many a gentleman 'd 
be glad to own it. Lor' bless you ! But, you know 
nothing of the world, brother William John. Some 
of 'em haven't one — ain't so rich as you ! ' 

31 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER ^ Or you, brother Tony?' The farmer made a grasp at 

Suggests the ^iS will-o'-the-wisp. 

Might of the < Oh ! me ! ' Anthony sniggered. * I 'm a scraper of 
Money Demon ^^^g ^^^ ^^^^^ j ^.^j^ ^^ things in the gutter. Mind 

you, those Jews ain't such fools, though a curse is on 
'em, to wander forth. They know the meaning of the 
multiplication table. They can turn fractions into 
whole numbers. No ; I 'm not to be compared to 
gentlemen. My property 's my respectability. I said 
that at the beginning, and I say it now. But, I '11 tell 
you what, brother William John, it 's an emotion when 
you 've got bags of thousands of pounds in your arms.' 
Ordinarily, the farmer was a sensible man, as straight 
on the level of dull intelligence as other men ; but so 
credulous was he in regard to the riches possessed by 
his wife's brother, that a very little tempted him to 
childish exaggeration of the probable amount. Now 
that Anthony himself furnished thenncitement, he was 
quite lifted from the earth. He had, besides, taken 
more of the strong mixture than he was ever accus- 
tomed to take in the middle of the day; and as it 
seemed to him that Anthony was really about to be 
seduced into a particular statement of the extent of 
the property which formed his respectability (as 
Anthony had chosen to put it), he got up a little 
game in his head by guessing how much the amount 
might positively be, so that he could subsequently 
compare his shrewd reckoning with the avowed fact. 
He tamed his wild ideas as much as possible ; thought 
over what his wife used to say of Anthony's saving 
ways from boyhood, thought of the dark hints of the 
Funds, of many bold strokes for money made by 
sagacious persons ; of Anthony's close style of living, 
32 



RHODA FLEMING 

and of the lives of celebrated misers ; this done, he chapter 
resolved to make a sure guess, and therefore aimed g^ eststhe 
below the mark. Might of the 

Money, when the imagination deals with it thus, M^'^^y ^^^^^^^ 
has no substantial relation to mortal affairs. It is 
a tricksy thing, distending and contracting as it 
dances in the mind, like sunlight on the ceiling cast 
from a morning tea-cup, if a forced simile will aid 
the conception. The farmer struck on thirty thou- 
sand and some odd hundred pounds — outlying debts, 
or so, excluded — as what Anthony's will, in all likeli- 
hood, would be sworn under: say, thirty thousand, 
or, safer, say, twenty thousand. Bequeathed — how? 
To him and to his children. But to the children 
in reversion after his decease? Or how? In any 
case, they might make capital marriages; and the 
farm estate should go to whichever of the two 
young husbands he liked the best. Farmer Fleming 
asked not for any life of ease and splendour, though 
thirty thousand pounds was a fortune ; or even 
twenty thousand. Noblemen have stooped to marry 
heiresses owning no more than that! The idea of 
their having done so actually shot across him, and 
his heart sent up a warm spring of tenderness to- 
ward the patient, good, grubbing old fellow, sitting 
beside him, who had lived and died to enrich and 
elevate the family. At the same time, he could not 
refrain from thinking that Anthony, broad-shouldered 
as he was, though bent, sound on his legs, and well- 
coloured for a Londoner, would be accepted by any 
Life Insurance office, at a moderate rate, considering 
his age. The farmer thought of his own health, and 
it was with a pang that he fancied himself being 
9— C 33 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER probed by the civil-speaking Life Insurance doctor 

su ests the (^ gentleman who seems to issue upon us applicants 

Might of the from out the muffled folding-doors of Hades ; taps 

Money Demon yg on the chcst, oncc, twicc, and forthwith writes 

down'^our fateful dates). Probably, Anthony would 

not have to pay a higher rate of interest than he. 

*Are you insured, brother Tony?* the question 
escaped him. 

* No, I ain't, brother William John ' ; Anthony went 
on nodding like an automaton set in motion. 'There 's 
two sides to that. I 'm a long-lived man. Long-lived 
men don't insure ; that is, unless they 're fools. That 's 
how the Offices thrive.' 

* Case of accident ? ' the farmer suggested. 

* Oh ! nothing happens to me,' replied Anthony. 
The farmer jumped on his legs and yawned. 

* Shall we take a turn in the garden, brother Tony ? ' 

* With all my heart, brother William John.' 

The farmer had conscience to be ashamed of the fit 
of irritable vexation which had seized on him ; and 
it was not till Anthony being asked the date of his 
birth, had declared himself twelve years his senior, 
that the farmer felt his speculations to be justified. 
Anthony was nearly a generation ahead. They walked 
about, and were seen from the windows touching one 
another on the shoulder in a brotherly way. When 
they came back to the women, and tea, the farmer's 
mind was cooler, and all his reckonings had gone to 
mist. He was dejected over his tea. 

* What is the matter, father ? ' said Rhoda. 

* I '11 tell you, my dear,' Anthony replied for him. 
*He's envying me some one I want to ask me that 
question when I 'm at my tea in London.' 

34 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER IV 
The Text from Scripture 

Mr. Fleming kept his forehead from his daughter's 
good-night kiss until the room was cleared, after 
supper, and then embracing her very heartily, he in- 
formed her that her uncle had offered to pay her 
expenses on a visit to London, by which he contrived 
to hint that a golden path had opened to his girl, and 
at the same time entreated her to think nothing of it ; 
to dismiss all expectations and dreams of impossible 
sums from her mind, and simply to endeavour to 
please her uncle, who had a right to his own, and a 
right to do what he liked with his own, though it were 
forty, fifty times as much as he possessed — and what 
that might amount to no one knew. In fact, as is the 
way with many experienced persons, in his attempt 
to give advice to another, he was very impressive in 
lecturing himself, and warned that other not to succumb 
to a temptation principally by indicating the natural 
basis of the allurement. Happily for young and for 
old, the intense insight of the young has much to 
distract or soften it. Rhoda thanked her father, and 
chose to think that she had listened to good and wise 
things. 

* Your sister,* he said — * but we won't speak of her. 
If I could part with you, my lass, I 'd rather she was 
the one to come back.' 

* Dahlia would be killed by our quiet life now,' said 
Rhoda. 

* Ay,' the farmer mused. * If she 'd got to pay six 

35 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER men every Saturday night, she wouldn't complain o* 
The Text from *^® quict. But, there ! — you neither of you ever took 

Scripture to farming or to housekeeping; but any gentleman 
might be proud to have one of you for a wife. I said 
so when you was girls. And if you 've been dull, my 
dear, what 's the good o' society ? Tea-cakes mayn't 
seem to cost money, nor a glass o' grog to neighbours ; 
but once open the door to that sort o' thing and your 
reckoning goes. And what I said to your poor 
mother 's true. I said : our girls, they 're mayhap not 
equals of the Hollands, the Nashaws, the Ferrets, and 
the others about here — no ; they 're not equals, because 
the others are not equals o' them^ maybe.' 

The yeoman's pride struggled out in this obscure 
way to vindicate his unneighbourliness and the 
seclusion of his daughters from the society of girls 
of their age and condition ; nor was it hard for Rhoda 
to assure him, as she earnestly did, that he had acted 
rightly. 

Rhoda, assisted by Mrs. Sumfit, was late in the night 
looking up what poor decorations she possessed 
wherewith to enter London, and be worthy of her 
sister's embrace, so that she might not shock the lady 
Dahlia had become. 

* Depend you on it, my dear,' said Mrs. Sumfit, * my 
Dahly's grown above him. That's nettles to your 
uncle, my dear. He can't abide it. Don't you see 
he can't ? Some men 's like that. Others 'd see you 
dressed like a princess, and not be satisfied. They 
vary so, the teasin' creatures ! But one and all, 
whether they likes it or not, owns a woman's the 
better for bein' dressed in the fashion. What do 
grieve me to my insidest heart, it is your bonnet. 
36 



RHODA FLEMING 

What a bonnet that was lying beside her dear round chapter 
arm in the portrait, and her finger up making a ^he Text from 
dimple in her cheek, as if she was thinking of us Scripture 
in a sorrowful way. That 's the arts o' being lady- 
like : — look sad-like. How could we get a bonnet for 
you?' 

* My own must do,' said Rhoda. 

*Yes, and you to look like lady and servant-gal 
a-going out for an airin' ; and she to feel it ! Pretty, 
that 'd be ! ' 

* She won't be ashamed of me,' Rhoda faltered ; and 
then hummed a little tune, and said firmly — *It's no 
use my trying to look like what I 'm not.' 

*No, truly,' Mrs. Sumfit assented. 'But it's your 
bein' behind the fashions what hurt me. As well you 
might be an old thing like me, for any pleasant looks 
you '11 git. Now, the country — you 're like in a coal- 
hole for the matter o' that. While London, my dear, 
it 's pavement and gutter, and omnibus traffic ; and if 
you're not in the fashion, the little wicked boys of 
the streets themselves '11 let you know it ; they 've got 
such eyes for fashions, they have. And I don't want 
my Dahly's sister to be laughed at, and called " coal- 
scuttle," as happened to me, my dear, believe it or not 
— and shoved aside, and said to — "who are you?" 
For she reely is nice-looking. Your uncle Anthony 
and Mr. Robert agreed upon that.' 

Rhoda coloured, and said, after a time, 'It would 
please me if people didn't speak about my looks.' 

The looking-glass probably told her no more than 
that she was nice to the eye, but a young man who 
sees anything should not see like a mirror, and a girl's 
instinct whispers to her, that her image has not been 

37 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER taken to heart when she is accurately and impartially 
The TeJt from dcscribcd by him. 

Scripture The key to Rhoda at this period was a desire to be 
made warm with praise of her person. She beheld 
her face at times, and shivered. The face was so 
strange with its dark thick eyebrows, and peculiarly 
straight-gazing brown eyes ; the level long red under- 
lip and curved upper ; and the chin and nose, so 
unlike Dahlia's, whose nose was, after a little dip 
from the forehead, one soft line to its extremity, and 
whose chin seemed shaped to a cup. Rhoda's outlines 
were harder. There was a suspicion of a heavenward 
turn to her nose, and of squareness to her chin. Her 
face, when studied, inspired in its owner's mind a 
doubt of her being even nice to the eye, though she 
knew that in exercise, and when smitten by a blush, 
brightness and colour aided her claims. She knew 
also that her head was easily poised on her neck ; and 
that her figure was reasonably good ; but all this was 
unconfirmed knowledge, quickly shadowed by the 
doubt. As the sun is wanted to glorify the right 
features of a landscape, this girl thirsted for a dose 
of golden flattery. She felt, without envy of her 
sister, that Dahlia eclipsed her: and all she prayed 
for was that she might not be quite so much in the 
background and obscure. 

But great, powerful London — the new universe to 
her spirit — was opening its arms to her. In her half 
sleep that night she heard the mighty thunder of the 
city, crashing tumults of disordered harmonies, and 
the splendour of the lamp-lighted city appeared to hang 
up under a dark-blue heaven, removed from earth, like 
a fresh planet to which she was being beckoned. 
38 



RHODA FLEMING 

At breakfast on the Sunday morning, her departure chapter 
was necessarily spoken of in public. Robert talked The Text from 
to her exactly as he had talked to Dahlia, on the like scripture 
occasion. He mentioned, as she remembered in one 
or two instances, the names of the same streets, and 
professed a similar anxiety as regarded driving her to 
the station and catching the train. * That 's a thing 
which makes a man feel his strength's nothing,' he 
said. * You can't stop it. I fancy I could stop a four- 
in-hand at full gallop. Mind, I only fancy I could ; but 
when you come to do with iron and steam I feel like 
a baby. You can't stop trains.' 

'You can trip 'em,' said Anthony, a remark that 
called forth general laughter, and increased the im- 
pression that he was a man of resources. 

Rhoda was vexed by Robert's devotion to his 
strength. She was going, and wished to go, but she 
wished to be regretted as well ; and she looked at him 
more. He, on the contrary, scarcely looked at her at 
all. He threw verbal turnips, oats, oxen, poultry, and 
every possible melancholy matter-of-fact thing, about 
the table, described the farm and his fondness for it and 
the neighbourhood ; said a farmer's life was best, and 
gave Rhoda a week in which to be tired of London. 

She sneered in her soul, thinking *how little he 
knows of the constancy in the nature of women ! ' 
adding, * when they form attachments.' 

Anthony was shown at church, in spite of a feeble 
intimation he expressed, that it would be agreeable to 
him to walk about in the March sunshine, and see the 
grounds and the wild flowers, which never gave trouble, 
nor cost a penny, and were always pretty, and worth 
twenty of your artificial contrivances. 

39 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER 'Same as I say to Miss Dahly/ he took occasion to 
The Text from J*eniark ; * but no ! — no good. I don't believe women 
Scripture hear ye, when you talk sense of that kind. "Look,*' 
say I, " at a violet." " Look," says she, " at a rose." 
Well, what can ye say after that ? She swears the 
rose looks best. You swear the violet costs least. 
Then there you have a battle between what it costs 
and how it looks.' 

Robert pronounced a conventional affirmative, when 
called on for it by a look from Anthony. Whereupon 
Rhoda cried out : 

* Dahlia was right — she was right, uncle.' 

* She was right, my dear, if she was a ten-thousander. 
She wasn't right as a farmer's daughter with poor 
expectations : — I 'd say humble, if humble she were. 
As a farmer's daughter, she should choose the violet 
side. That 's clear as day. One thing 's good, I 
admit ; she tells me she makes her own bonnets, 
and they're as good as milliners', and that's a proud 
matter to say of your own niece. And to buy dresses 
for herself, I suppose, she 's sat down and she made 
dresses for fine ladies. I 've found her at it. Save 
the money for the work, says L What does she 
reply — she always has a reply : Uncle, I know the 
value of money better. You mean, you spend it, I 
says to her. I buy more than it 's worth, says she. 
And I'll tell you what, Mr. Robert Armstrong, as I 
find your name to be, sir ; if you beat women at 
talking, my lord ! you 're a clever chap.' 

Robert laughed. * I give in at the first mile.' 

* Don't think much of women — is that it, sir ? ' 

* I 'm glad to say I don't think of them at 
all.' 

40 



RHODA FLEMING 

* Do you think of one woman, now, Mr. Robert chapter 

Armstrong?' The Text from 

* I 'd much rather think of two.' scripture 

* And why, may I ask ? ' 

* It 's safer.' 

*Now, I don't exactly see that,' said Anthony. 

* You set one to tear the other,' Robert explained. 

* You 're a Grand Turk Mogul in your reasonings of 
women, Mr. Robert Armstrong. I hope as your morals 
are sound, sir ? ' 

They were on the road to church, but Robert could 
not restrain a swinging outburst. 

He observed that he hoped likewise that his morals 
were sound. 

* Because,' said Anthony, * do you see, sir, two 
wives ' 

*No, no; one wife,' interposed Robert. *You said 
"think about"; I'd "think about" any number of 
women, if I was idle. But the woman you mean to 
make your wife, you go to at once, and don't " think 
about " her or the question either.' 

* You make sure of her, do you, sir ? * 

* No : I try my luck ; that is all.' 

* Suppose she won't have ye ? ' 

* Then I wait for her.' 

* Suppose she gets married to somebody else ? ' 

* Well, you know, I shouldn't cast eye on a woman 
who was a fool.' 

*Well, upon my ' Anthony checked his ex- 
clamation, returning to the charge with, 'Just sup- 
pose, for the sake of supposing — supposing she was a 
fool, and gone and got married, and you thrown back- 
'ard on one leg, starin' at the other, stupefied-like ? ' 

41 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER ' I don't mind supposing it/ said Robert. * Say, 
The Telt from ^^^ '^ a fool. Her being a fool argues that I was 
Scripture one in making a fool's choice. So, she jilts me, 
and I get a pistol, or I get a neat bit of rope, or I 
take a clean header with a cannon-ball at my heels, 
or I go to the chemist's and ask for stuff to poison 
rats, — anything a fool 'd do under the circumstances, 
it don't matter what.' 

Old Anthony waited for Rhoda to jump over a style, 
and said to her — 

* He laughs at the whole lot of ye.' 

* Who ? ' she asked, with betraying cheeks. 

* This Mr. Robert Armstrong of yours.' 

* Of mine, uncle ! ' 

* He don't seem to care a snap o' the finger for any 
of ye.' 

* Then, none of us must care for him, uncle.' 
'Now, just the contrary. That always shows a 

young fellow who 's attending to his business. If he 'd 
seen you boil potatoes, make dumplins, beds, tea, all 
that, you 'd have had a chance. He 'd have marched 
up to ye before you was off to London.' 

* Saying, " You are the woman." ' Rhoda was too 
desperately tickled by the idea to refrain from uttering 
it, though she was angry, and suffering internal discon- 
tent. *0r else, "You are the cook,"' she muttered, 
and shut, with the word, steel bars across her heart, 
calling him, mentally, names not justified by anything 
he had said or done — such as mercenary, tyrannical, 
and such like. 

Robert was attentive to her in church. Once she 
caught him with his eyes on her face ; but he betrayed 
no confusion, and looked away at the clergyman. 
42 



RHODA FLEMING 

When the text was given out, he found the place in chapter 
his Bible, and handed it to her pointedly — * There shall T^e jg^^ f^^^^ 
be snares and traps unto you ' ; a line from Joshua, scripture 
She received the act as a polite parting civility ; but 
when she was coming out of church, Robert saw that 
a blush swept over her face, and wondered what 
thoughts could be rising within her, unaware that 
girls catch certain meanings late, and suffer a fiery 
torture when these meanings are clear to them. Rhoda 
called up the pride of her womanhood that she might 
despise the man who had dared to distrust her. She 
kept her poppy colour throughout the day, so sensi- 
tive was this pride. But most she was angered, after 
reflection, by the doubts which Robert appeared to 
cast on Dahlia, in setting his finger upon that burning 
line of Scripture. It opened a whole black kingdom 
to her imagination, and first touched her visionary 
life with shade. She was sincere in her ignorance 
that the doubts were her own, but they lay deep in un- 
awakened recesses of the soul ; it was by a natural 
action of her reason that she transferred and forced 
them upon him who had chanced to make them 
visible. 



CHAPTER V 

The Sisters meet 

When young minds are set upon a distant object, they 
scarcely live for anything about them. The drive to 
the station and the parting with Robert, the journey 
to London, which had latterly seemed to her secretly- 

43 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER distressed anticipation like a sunken city — a place 
The Sisters ^^ wondcr with the waters over it — all passed by 
meet sHioothly ; and then it became necessary to call a 
cabman, for whom, as he did her the service to lift 
her box, Rhoda felt a gracious respect, until a quarrel 
ensued between him and her uncle concerning six- 
pence ; a poor sum, as she thought ; but representing, 
as Anthony impressed upon her understanding during 
the conflict of hard words, a principle. Those who 
can persuade themselves that they are fighting for a 
principle, fight strenuously, and may be reckoned upon 
to overmatch combatants on behalf of a miserable 
small coin; so the cabman went away discomfited. 
He used such bad language that Rhoda had no pity 
for him, and hearing her uncle style it *the London 
tongue,' she thought dispiritedly of Dahlia's having 
had to listen to it through so long a season. Dahlia 
was not at home ; but Mrs. Wicklow, Anthony's land- 
lady, undertook to make Rhoda comfortable, which 
operation she began by praising dark young ladies 
over fair ones, at the same time shaking Rhoda's arm 
that she might not fail to see a compliment was in- 
tended. *This is our London way,' she said. But 
Rhoda was most disconcerted when she heard Mrs. 
Wicklow relate that her daughter and Dahlia were out 
together, and say, that she had no doubt they had 
found some pleasant and attentive gentleman for a 
companion, if they had not gone purposely to meet 
one. Her thoughts of her sister were perplexed, and 
London seemed a gigantic net around them both. 

* Yes, that 's the habit with the girls up here,' said 
Anthony ; * that 's what fine bonnets mean.' 

Rhoda dropped into a bitter depth of brooding. 
44 



RHODA FLEMING 

The savage nature of her virgin pride was such that chapter 
it gave her great suffering even to suppose that a ^j^^ ^^^^^.^ 
strange gentleman would dare to address her sister. meet 
She half-fashioned the words on her lips that she had 
dreamed of a false Zion, and was being righteously 
punished. By-and-by the landlady's daughter returned 
home alone, saying, with a dreadful laugh, that Dahlia 
had sent her for her Bible; but she would give no 
explanation of the singular mission which had been 
entrusted to her, and she showed no willingness to 
attempt to fulfil it, merely repeating, * Her Bible ! ' 
with a vulgar exhibition of simulated scorn that 
caused Rhoda to shrink from her, though she would 
gladly have poured out a multitude of questions in the 
ear of one who had last been with her beloved. After 
a while, Mrs. Wicklow looked at the clock, and in- 
stantly became overclouded with an extreme gravity. 

* Eleven ! and she sent Mary Ann home for her Bible. 
This looks bad. I call it hypocritical, the idea of men- 
tioning the Bible. Now, if she had said to Mary Ann, 
go and fetch any other book but a Bible ! ' 

* It was mother's Bible,' interposed Rhoda. 

Mrs. Wicklow replied : * And I wish all young 
women to be as innocent as you, my dear. You '11 
get you to bed. You 're a dear, mild, sweet, good 
young woman. I 'm never deceived in character.' 

Vaunting her penetration, she accompanied Rhoda 
to Dahlia's chamber, bidding her sleep speedily, or 
that when her sister came they would be talking 
till the cock crowed hoarse. 

* There 's a poultry-yard close to us ? ' said Rhoda ; 
feeling less at home when she heard that there was 
not. 

45 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER The night was quiet and clear. She leaned her head 
The Asters ^^* ^^ *^® window, and heard the mellow Sunday 
meet evening roar of the city as of a sea at ebb. And 
Dahlia was out on the sea. Rhoda thought of it as 
she looked at the row of lamps, and listened to the 
noise remote, until the sight of stars was pleasant 
as the faces of friends. * People are kind here,* she 
reflected, for her short experience of the landlady 
was good, and a young gentleman who had hailed 
a cab for her at the station, had a nice voice. He 
was fair. * I am dark,' came a spontaneous reflection. 
She undressed, and half dozing over her beating heart 
in bed, heard the street-door open, and leaped to think 
that her sister approached, jumping up in her bed to 
give ear to the door and the stairs, that were conduct- 
ing her joy to her: but she quickly recomposed herself, 
and feigned sleep, for the delight of revelling in her 
sister's first wonderment. The door was flung wide, 
and Rhoda heard her name called by Dahlia's voice, 
and then there was a delicious silence, and she felt 
that Dahlia was coming up to her on tiptoe, and waited 
for her head to be stooped near, that she might fling 
out her arms, and draw the dear head to her bosom. 
But Dahlia came only to the bedside, without leaning 
over, and spoke of her looks, which held the girl 
quiet. 

* How she sleeps ! It 's a country sleep ! ' Dahlia 
murmured. ' She 's changed, but it 's all for the better. 
She's quite a woman; she's a perfect brunette; and 
the nose I used to laugh at suits her face and those 
black, thick eyebrows of hers ; my pet ! Oh, why is 
she here ? What 's meant by it ? I knew nothing of 
her coming. Is she sent on purpose ? ' 
46 



RHODA FLEMING 

Rhoda did not stir. The tone of Dahlia's speaking, chapter 
low, and almost awful to her, laid a flat hand on her, r^^^ sisters 
and kept her still. meet 

* I came for my Bible,' she heard Dahlia say. * I 
promised mother — oh, my poor darling mother ! And 
Dody lying in my bed ! Who would have thought of 
such things ? Perhaps heaven does look after us and 
interfere. What will become of me ? Oh, you pretty 
innocent in your sleep! I lie for hours, and can't 
sleep. She binds her hair in a knot on the pillow, 
just as she used to in the old farm days ! ' 

Rhoda knew that her sister was bending over her 
now, but she was almost frigid, and could not move. 

Dahlia went to the looking-glass. *How flushed I 
am ! ' she murmured. * No ; I 'm pale, quite white. 
I've lost my strength. What can I do? How could 
I take mother's Bible, and run from my pretty one, 
who expects me, and dreams she '11 wake with me 
beside her in the morning. I can't — I can't! If you 
love me, Edward, you won't wish it.' 

She fell into a chair, crying wildly, and muffling her 
sobs. Rhoda's eyelids grew moist, but wonder and 
the cold anguish of senseless sympathy held her still 
frost-bound. All at once she heard the window open. 
Some one spoke in the street below ; some one uttered * 
Dahlia's name. A deep bell swung a note of midnight. 

' Go ! ' cried Dahlia. 

The window was instantly shut. 

The vibration of Dahlia's voice went through Rhoda 
like the heavy shaking of the bell after it had struck, 
and the room seemed to spin and hum. It was to her 
but another minute before her sister slid softly into 
the bed, and they were locked together. 

47 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER VI 

Edward and Algernon 

Boyne's Bank was of the order of those old and firmly- 
fixed establishments which have taken root with the 
fortunes of the country — are honourable as England's 
name, solid as her prosperity, and even as the flourish- 
ing green tree to shareholders: a granite house. Boyne 
himself had been disembodied for more than a century: 
Burt and Hamble were still of the flesh ; but a greater 
than Burt or Hamble was Blancove — the Sir William 
Blancove, Baronet, of city feasts and charities, who, 
besides being a wealthy merchant, possessed of a very 
acute head for banking, was a scholarly gentleman, 
worthy of riches. His brother was Squire Blancove, 
of Wrexby; but between these two close relatives 
there existed no stronger feeling than what was ex- 
pressed by open contempt of a mind dedicated to 
business on the one side, and quiet contempt of a 
life devoted to indolence on the other. Nevertheless, 
Squire Blancove, though everybody knew how deeply 
he despised his junior for his city-gained title and com- 
mercial occupation, sent him his son Algernon, to get 
the youth into sound discipline, if possible. This was 
after the elastic Algernon had, on the paternal intima- 
tion of his colonel, relinquished his cornetcy and 
military service. Sir William received the hopeful 
young fellow much in the spirit with which he listened 
to the tales of his brother's comments on his own 
line of conduct; that is to say, as homage to his in- 
tellectual superiority. Mr. Algernon was installed 
48 



RHODA FLEMING 

in the Bank, and sat down for a long career of groan- chapter 
ing at the desk, with more complacency than was Edwrrdand 
expected from him. Sir William forwarded excellent Algernon 
accounts to his brother of the behaviour of the heir 
to his estates. It was his way of rebuking the squire, 
and in return for it the squire, though somewhat com- 
forted, despised his clerkly son, and lived to learn how 
very unjustly he did so. Adolescents, who have the 
taste for running into excesses, enjoy the breath of 
change as another form of excitement: change is a 
sort of debauch to them. They will delight infinitely 
in a simple country round of existence, in propriety 
and church-going, in the sensation of feeling innocent. 
There is little that does not enrapture them, if you 
tie them down to nothing, and let them try all. Sir 
William was deceived by his nephew. He would have 
taken him into his town-house; but his own son, 
Edward, who was studying for the Law, had chambers 
in the Temple, and Algernon, receiving an invitation 
from Edward, declared a gentle preference for the 
abode of his cousin. His allowance from his father 
was properly contracted to keep him from excesses, 
as the genius of his senior devised, and Sir William 
saw no objection to the scheme, and made none. The 
two dined with him about twice in the month. 

Edward Blancove was three-and-twenty years old, 
a student by fits, and a young man given to be moody. 
He had powers of gaiety far eclipsing Algernon's, but 
he was not the same easy tripping sinner and flippant 
soul. He was in that yeasty condition of his years 
when action and reflection alternately usurp the mind ; 
remorse succeeded dissipation, and indulgences offered 
the soporific to remorse. The friends of the two im- 
9— D 49 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

VI 

Edward and 

Algernon 



agined that Algernon was, or would become, his evil 
genius. In reality, Edward was the perilous com- 
panion. He was composed of better stuff. Algernon 
was but an airy animal nature, the soul within him 
being an effervescence lightly let loose. Edward had 
a fatally serious spirit, and one of some strength. 
What he gave himself up to, he could believe to be 
correct, in the teeth of an opposing world, until he 
tired of it, when he sided as heartily with the world 
against his quondam self. Algernon might mislead, 
or point his cousin's passions for a time ; yet if they 
continued their courses together, there was danger 
that Algernon would degenerate into a reckless sub- 
ordinate — a minister, a valet, and be tempted unknow- 
ingly to do things in earnest, which is nothing less 
than perdition to this sort of creature. 

But the key to young men is the ambition, or, in 
the place of it, the romantic sentiment nourished by 
them. Edward aspired to become Attorney-General 
of these realms, not a judge, you observe; for a judge 
is to the imagination of youthful minds a stationary 
being, venerable, but not active; whereas, your 
Attorney-General is always in the fray, and fights 
commonly on the winning side, a point that renders 
his position attractive to sagacious youth. Algernon 
had other views. Civilization had tried him, and found 
him wanting ; so he condemned it. Moreover, sitting 
now all day at a desk, he was civilization's drudge. 
No wonder, then, that his dream was of prairies, and 
primeval forests, and Australian wilds. He believed 
in his heart that he would be a man new made 
over there, and always looked forward to savage 
life as to a bath that would cleanse him, so that it 
50 



RHODA FLEMING 

did not much matter his being unclean for the chapter 

present. EdwLdand 

The young men had a fair cousin by marriage, a Algernon 
Mrs. Margaret Lovell, a widow. At seventeen she had 
gone with her husband to India, where Harry Lovell 
encountered the sword of a Sikh Sirdar, and tried the 
last of his much-vaunted swordsmanship, which, with 
his skill at the pistols, had served him better in two 
antecedent duels, for the vindication of his lovely and 
terrible young wife. He perished on the field, criti- 
cally admiring the stroke to which he owed his death. 
A week after Harry's burial his widow was asked in 
marriage by his colonel. Captains, and a giddy subal- 
tern likewise, disputed claims to possess her. She, 
however, decided to arrest further bloodshed by quit- 
ting the regiment. She always said that she left India 
to save her complexion ; * and people don't know how 
very candid I am,' she added, for the colonel above- 
mentioned was wealthy — a man expectant of a title, 
and a good match, and she was laughed at when she 
thus assigned trivial reasons for momentous resolu- 
tions. It is a luxury to be candid ; and perfect candour 
can do more for us than a dark disguise. 

Mrs. Lovell's complexion was worth saving from the 
ravages of an Indian climate, and the persecution of 
claimants to her hand. She was golden and white, 
like an autumnal birch-tree — yellow hair, with warm- 
toned streaks in it, shading a fabulously fair skin. 
Then, too, she was tall, of a nervous build, supple 
and proud in motion, a brilliant horsewoman, and 
a most distinguished sitter in an easy drawing-room 
chair, which is, let me impress upon you, no mean 
quality. After riding out for hours with a sweet 

51 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 
VI 

Edward and 
Algernon 



comrade, who has thrown the mantle of dignity halfway 
off her shoulders, it is perplexing, and mixed strangely 
of humiliation and ecstacy, to come upon her clouded 
majesty where she reclines as upon rose-hued clouds, 
in a mystic circle of restriction (she who laughed at 
your jokes, and capped them, two hours ago), a queen. 
Between Margaret Lovell and Edward there was a 
misunderstanding, of which no one knew the nature, 
for they spoke in public very respectfully one of the 
other. It had been supposed that they were lovers 
once ; but when lovers quarrel, they snarl, they bite, 
they worry ; their eyes are indeed unveiled, and their 
mouths unmuzzled. Now Margaret said of Edward : 
* He is sure to rise ; he has such good principles.' 
Edward said of Margaret : * She only wants a husband 
who will keep her well in hand.' These sentences 
scarcely carried actual compliments when you knew 
the speakers ; but outraged lovers cannot talk in that 
style after they have broken apart. It is possible that 
Margaret and Edward conveyed to one another as sharp 
a sting as envenomed lovers attempt. Gossip had once 
betrothed them, but was now at fault. The lady had 
a small jointure, and lived partly with her uncle, Lord 
EUing, partly with Squire Blancove, her aunt's husband, 
and a little by herself, which was when she counted 
money in her purse, and chose to assert her independ- 
ence. She had a name in the world. There is a fate 
attached to some women, from Helen of Troy down- 
ward, that blood is to be shed for them. One duel on 
behalf of a woman is a reputation to her for life ; two 
are notoriety. If she is very young, can they be attri- 
butable to her? We charge them naturally to her 
overpowering beauty. It happened that Mrs. Lovell 
52 



RHODA FLEMING 

was beautiful. Under the light of the two duels her chapter 
beauty shone as from an illumination of black flame. Edward and 
Boys adored Mrs. Lovell. These are moths. But more, Algernon 
the birds of air, nay, grave owls (who stand in this 
metaphor for whiskered experience) thronged, dashing 
at the apparition of terrible splendour. Was it her 
fault that she had a name in the world ? 

Mrs. Margaret Lovell's portrait hung in Edward's 
room. It was a photograph exquisitely coloured, and 
was on the left of a dark Judith, dark with a serenity 
of sternness. On the right hung another coloured 
photograph of a young lady, also fair; and it was a 
point of taste to choose between them. Do you like 
the hollowed lily's cheeks, or the plump rose's ? Do 
you like a thinnish fall of golden hair, or an abundant 
cluster of nut-brown ? Do you like your blonde with 
limpid blue eyes, or prefer an endowment of sunny 
hazel? Finally, are you taken by an air of artistic 
innocence winding serpentine about your heart's fibres ; 
or is blushing simplicity sweeter to you ? Mrs. Lovell's 
eyebrows were the faintly-marked trace of a perfect 
arch. The other young person's were thickish, more 
level ; a full brown colour. She looked as if she had 
not yet attained to any sense of her being a professed 
beauty: but the fair widow was clearly bent upon 
winning you, and had a shy, playful intentness of 
aspect. Her pure white skin was flat on the bone ; 
the lips came forward in a soft curve, and, if they 
were not artistically stained, were triumphantly fresh. 
Here, in any case, she beat her rival, whose mouth had 
the plebeian beauty's fault of being too straight in a 
line, and was not trained, apparently, to tricks of 
dainty pouting. 

53 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

VI 

Edward and 

Algernon 



It was morning, and the cousins having sponged in 
pleasant cold water, arranged themselves for exercise, 
and came out simultaneously into the sitting-room, 
slippered, and in flannels. They nodded and went 
through certain curt greetings, and then Algernon 
stepped to a cupboard and tossed out the leather 
gloves. The room was large and they had a tolerable 
space for the work, when the breakfast-table had been 
drawn a little on one side. You saw at a glance which 
was the likelier man of the two, when they stood op- 
posed. Algernon's rounded features, full lips and fall- 
ing chin, were not a match, though he was quick on his 
feet, for the wary, prompt eyes, set mouth, and hard- 
ness of Edward. Both had stout muscle, but in Ed- 
ward there was vigour of brain as well, which seemed 
to knit and inform his shape : without which, in 
fact, a man is as a ship under no command. Both 
looked their best ; as, when sparring, men always do 
look. 

* Now, then,' said Algernon, squaring up to his cousin 
in good style, * now 's the time for that unwholesome 
old boy underneath to commence groaning.' 

* Step as light as you can,' replied Edward, meeting 
him with the pretty motion of the gloves. 

* I '11 step as light as a French dancing-master. Let 's 
go to Paris and learn the savate, Ned. It must be a 
new sensation to stand on one leg and knock a fellow's 
hat off with the other.* 

* Stick to your fists.' 

' Hang it ! I wish your fists wouldn't stick to me so.' 

* You talk too much.' 

* 'Gad, I don't get puffy half so soon as you.' 

* I want country air.' 
54 



RHODA FLEMING 

* You said you were going out, old Ned.' chapter 

' I changed my mind/ ^dwlrd and 

Saying which, Edward shut his teeth, and talked for Algernon 
two or three hot minutes wholly with his fists. The 
room shook under Algernon's boundings to right and 
left, till a blow sent him back on the breakfast-table, 
shattered a cup on the floor, and bespattered his close 
flannel shirt with a funereal coffee-tinge. 

* What the deuce I said to bring that on myself, I 
don't know,' Algernon remarked as he rose. 'Any- 
thing connected with the country disagreeable to you, 
Ned ? Come ! a bout of quiet scientific boxing, and 
none of these beastly rushes, as if you were singling 
me out of a crowd of magsmen. Did you go to church 
yesterday, Ned? Confound it, you're on me again, 
are you ! ' 

And Algernon went on spouting unintelligible talk 
under a torrent of blows. He lost his temper and 
fought out at them ; but as it speedily became evident 
to him that the loss laid him open to punishment, he 
prudently recovered it, sparred, danced about, and 
contrived to shake the room in a manner that caused 
Edward to drop his arms, in consideration for the 
distracted occupant of the chambers below. Algernon 
accepted the truce, and made it peace by casting off 
one glove. 

* There ! that 's a pleasant morning breather,' he 
said, and sauntered to the window to look at the 
river. ' I always feel the want of it when I don't get 
it. I could take a thrashing rather than not on with 
the gloves to begin the day. Look at those boats! 
Fancy my having to go down to the city. It makes 
me feel like my blood circulating the wrong way. My 

55 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 
VI 

Edward and 
Algernon 



father '11 suffer some day, for keeping me at this low 
ebb of cash, by jingo ! ' 
He uttered this with a prophetic fierceness. 

* I cannot even scrape together enough for entrance 
money to a Club. It 's sickening ! I wonder whether 
I shall ever get used to banking work ? There 's an 
old clerk in our office who says he should feel ill if 
he missed a day. And the old porter beats him — 
bangs him to fits. I believe he 'd die off if he didn't 
see the house open to the minute. They say that old 
boy 's got a pretty niece ; but he don't bring her to the 
office now. Reward of merit ! — Mr. Anthony Hackbut 
is going to receive ten pounds a year extra. That 's 
for his honesty. I wonder whether I could earn a 
reputation for the sake of a prospect of ten extra 
pounds to my salary, /'ve got a salary ! hurrah ! 
But if they keep me to my hundred and fifty per 
annum, don't let them trust me every day with the 
bags, as they do that old fellow. Some of the men 
say he 's good to lend fifty pounds at a pinch. — Are 
the chops coming, Ned ? ' 

* The chops are coming,' said Edward, who had 
thrown on a boating-coat and plunged into a book, 
and spoke echoing. 

'Here's little Peggy Lovell.* Algernon faced this 
portrait. *It don't do her justice. She's got more 
life, more change in her, more fire. She's starting 
for town, I hear.' 

* She is starting for town,' said Edward. 

* How do you know that ? ' Algernon swung about 
to ask. 

Edward looked round to him. * By the fact of your 
not having fished for a holiday this week. How 
56 



RHODA FLEMING 

did you leave her yesterday, Algy? Quite well, I chapter 

t^ , VI 

""P®- Edward and 

The ingenuous face of the young gentleman crimsoned. Algernon 

* Oh, she was well,' he said. * Ha ! I see there can 
be some attraction in your dark women.' 

*You mean that Judith? Yes, she's a good diver- 
sion.' Edward gave a two-edged response. * What 
train did you come up by last night ? ' 

* The last from Wrexby. That reminds me : I saw 
a young Judith just as I got out. She wanted a cab. 
I called it for her. She belongs to old Hackbut of the 
Bank — the old porter, you know. If it wasn't that 
there's always something about dark women which 
makes me think they 're going to have a moustache, 
I should take to that girl's face.' 

Edward launched forth an invective against fair 
women. 

'What have they done to you — what have they 
done ? ' said Algernon. 

* My good fellow, they 're nothing but colour. 
They've no conscience. If they swear a thing to 
you one moment, they break it the next. They can't 
help doing it. You don't ask a gilt weathercock to 
keep faith with anything but the wind, do you ? It 's 
an ass that trusts a fair woman at all, or has anything 
to do with the confounded set. Cleopatra was fair ; 
so was Delilah ; so is the Devil's wife. Reach me 
that book of Reports.' 

* By jingo ! ' cried Algernon, ' my stomach reports 

that if provision doesn't soon approach Why 

don't you keep a French cook here, Ned ? Let 's give 
up the women, and take to a French cook.' 

Edward yawned horribly. 'All in good time. It's 

57 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER what we come to. It 's philosophy — your French 
EdwI/dand cook ! I wish I had it, or him. I'm afraid a fellow 
Algernon Can't anticipate his years — not so lucky ! ' 

* By Jove ! we shall have to be philosophers before 
we breakfast ! ' Algernon exclaimed. * It 's nine. I 've 
to be tied to the stake at ten, chained and muzzled — 
a leetle-a dawg! I wish I hadn't had to leave the 
service. It was a vile conspiracy against me there, 
Ned. Hang all tradesmen ! I sit on a stool, and add 
up figures. I work harder than a nigger in the office. 
That 's my life : but I must feed. It 's no use going to 
the office in a rage.' 

' Will you try on the gloves again ? ' was Edward's 
mild suggestion. 

Algernon thanked him, and replied that he knew 
him. Edward hit hard when he was empty. 

They now affected patience, as far as silence went 
to make up an element of that sublime quality. The 
chops arriving, they disdained the mask. Algernon 
fired his glove just over the waiter's head, and Edward 
put the case to the man's conscience ; after which 
they sat and ate, talking little. The difference between 
them was, that Edward knew the state of Algernon's 
mind and what was working within it, while the latter 
stared at a blank wall as regarded Edward's. 

* Going out after breakfast, Ned?' said Algernon. 

* We '11 walk to the city together, if you like.' 

Edward fixed one of his intent looks upon his cousin. 

* You 're not going to the city to-day ? ' 

< The deuce, I 'm not ! ' 

* You 're going to dance attendance on Mrs. Lovell, 
whom it 's your pleasure to call Peggy, when you 're 
some leagues out of her hearing.' 

58 



RHODA FLEMING 

Algernon failed to command his countenance. He chapter 
glanced at one of the portraits, and said, * Who is ^^ 

*■ ' ' Edward and 

that girl up there? Tell us her name. Talking of Algernon 
Mrs. Lovell, has she ever seen it ? ' 

*If you'll put on your coat, my dear Algy, I will 
talk to you about Mrs. Lovell.' Edward kept his 
penetrative eyes on Algernon. * Listen to me : you '11 
get into a mess there.' 

* If I must listen, Ned, I '11 listen in my shirt-sleeves, 
with all respect to the lady.' 

* Very well. The shirt-sleeves help the air of 
bravado. Now, you know that I've what they call 
"knelt at her feet." She's handsome. Don't cry 
out. She 's dashing, and as near being a devil as any 
woman I ever met. Do you know why we broke ? 
I'll tell you. Plainly, because I refused to believe 
that one of her men had insulted her. You under- 
stand what that means. I declined to be a chief party 
iq a scandal.' 

* Declined to fight the fellow ? ' interposed Algernon. 
* More shame to you ! ' 

* I think you 're a year younger than I am, Algy. 
You have the privilege of speaking with that year's 
simplicity. Mrs. Lovell will play you as she played 
me. I acknowledge her power, and I keep out of her 
way. I don't bet ; I don't care to waltz ; I can't keep 
horses ; so I don't lose much by the privation to 
which I subject myself.' 

*I bet, I waltz, and I ride. So,' said Algernon, *I 
should lose tremendously.' 

* You will lose, mark my words.' 

* Is the lecture of my year's senior concluded ? ' said 
Algernon. 

59 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 
VI 

Edward and 
Algernon 



' Yes ; I Ve done/ Edward answered. 

* Then I '11 put on my coat, Ned, and I '11 smoke in 
it. That '11 give you assurance I 'm not going near 
Mrs. Lovell, if anything will.' 

* That gives me assurance that Mrs. Lovell tolerates 
in you what she detests,' said Edward, relentless in 
his insight ; * and, consequently, gives me assurance 
that she finds you of particular service to her at 
present.' 

Algernon had a lighted match in his hand. He 
flung it into the fire. * I 'm hanged if I don't think 
you have the confounded vanity to suppose she sets 
me as a spy upon you ! ' 

A smile ran along Edward's lips. *I don't think 
you 'd know it, if she did.' 

* Oh, you 're ten years older ; you 're twenty,' bawled 
Algernon, in an extremity of disgust. * Don't I know 
what game you 're following up ? Isn't it clear as day 
you 've got another woman in your eye ? ' ^ 

* It 's as clear as day, my good Algy, that you see a 
portrait hanging in my chambers, and you have heard 
Mrs. Lovell's opinion of the fact. So much is perfectly 
clear. There 's my hand. I don't blame you. She 's 
a clever woman, and like many of the sort, shrewd at 
guessing the worst. Come, take my hand. I tell you, 
I don't blame you. I 've been little dog to her myself, 
and fetched and carried, and wagged my tail. It 's 
charming while it lasts. Will you shake it ? ' 

* Your tally man ? ' Algernon roared in pretended 
amazement. 

Edward eased him back to friendliness by laughing. 
* No ; my hand.' 
They shook hands. 
60 



RHODA FLEMING 

* All right,' said Algernon. * You mean well. It 's chapter 
very well for you to preach virtue to a poor devil ; E^w^d and 
you 've got loose, or you 're regularly in love.' Algernon 

* Virtue ! by heaven ! ' Edward cried ; * I wish I were 
entitled to preach it to any man on earth.' 

His face flushed. * There, good-bye, old fellow,' he 
added. * Go to the city. I '11 dine with you to-night, 
if you like ; come and dine with me at my Club. I 
shall be disengaged.' 

Algernon mumbled a flexible assent to an appoint- 
ment at Edward's Club, dressed himself with care, 
borrowed a sovereign, for which he nodded his accept- 
ance, and left him. 

Edward set his brain upon a book of law. 

It may have been two hours after he had sat thus in 
his Cistercian stillness, when a letter was delivered to 
him by one of the Inn porters. Edward read the super- 
scription, and asked the porter who it was that brought 
it. Two young ladies, the porter said. 

These were the contents : — 

*I am not sure that you will ever forgive me. I 
cannot forgive myself when I think of that one word 
I was obliged to speak to you in the cold street, and 
nothing to explain why, and how much I love you. 
Oh ! how I love you ! I cry while I write. I cannot 
help it. I was a sop of tears all night long, and oh ! 
if you had seen my face in the morning. I am thank- 
ful you did not. Mother's Bible brought me home. It 
must have been guidance, for in my bed there lay my 
sister, and I could not leave her, I love her so. I could 
not have got down stairs again after seeing her there ; 
and I had to say that cold word and shut the window 
on you. May I call you Edward still ? Oh, dear 

61 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

VI 

Edward and 

Algernon 



Edward, do make allowance for me. Write kindly 
to me. Say you forgive me. I feel like a ghost 
to-day. My life seems quite behind me somewhere, 
and I hardly feel anything I touch. I declare to 
you, dearest one, I had no idea my sister was here. 
I was surprised when I heard her name mentioned by 
my landlady, and looked on the bed; suddenly my 
strength was gone, and it changed all that I was think- 
ing. I never knew before that women were so weak, 
but now I see they are, and I only know I am at my 
Edward's mercy, and am stupid ! Oh, so wretched 
and stupid. I shall not touch food till I hear from you. 
Oh, if you are angry, write so; but do write. My 
suspense would make you pity me. I know I deserve 
your anger. It was not that I do not trust you, Edward. 
My mother in heaven sees my heart and that I trust, 
I trust my heart and everything I am and have to you. 
I would almost wish and wait to see you to-day in the 
Gardens, but my crying has made me such a streaked 
thing to look at. If I had rubbed my face with a 
scrubbing-brush, I could not look worse, and I cannot 
risk your seeing me. It would excuse you for hating 
me. Do you ? Does he hate her ? She loves you. 
She would die for you, dear Edward. Oh ! I feel that 
if I was told to-day that I should die for you to-morrow, 
it would be happiness. I am dying — yes, I am dying 
till I hear from you. 

* Believe me, 
* Your tender, loving, broken-hearted, 

* Dahlia.' 

There was a postscript : — 

* May I still go to lessons ? ' 

Edward finished the letter with a calmly perusing 
62 



RHODA FLEMING 

eye. He had winced triflingly at one or two expres- chapter 
sions contained in it ; forcible, perhaps, but not such ^^^^^^ ^nd 
as Mrs. Lovell smiling from the wall yonder would Algernon 
have used. 

* The poor child threatens to eat no dinner, if I 
don't write to her,' he said ; and replied in a kind and 
magnanimous spirit, concluding — * Go to lessons, by 
all means.* 

Having accomplished this, he stood up, and by 
hazard fell to comparing the rival portraits ; a melan- 
choly and a comic thing to do, as you will find if you 
put two painted heads side by side, and set their merits 
contesting, and reflect on the contest, and to what 
advantages, personal, or of the artist's, the winner 
owes the victory. Dahlia had been admirably dealt 
with by the artist ; the charm of pure ingenuousness 
without rusticity was visible in her face and figure. 
Hanging there on the wall, she was a match for Mrs. 
Lovell. 



CHAPTER VII 
Great News from Dahlia 

Rhoda returned home the heavier for a secret that she 
bore with her. All through the first night of her sleep- 
ing in London, Dahlia's sobs, and tender hugs, and 
self-reproaches, had penetrated her dreams, and when 
the morning came she had scarcely to learn that Dahlia 
loved some one. The confession was made ; but his 
name was reserved. Dahlia spoke of him with such 
sacredness of respect that she seemed lost in him, 

63 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER and like a creature kissing his feet. With tears rolling 

VII 

Great News ^own her cheeks, and with moans of anguish, she 
from Dahlia spoke of the deliciousness of loving : of knowing one 
to whom she abandoned her will and her destiny, 
until, seeing how beautiful a bloom love threw upon 
the tearful worn face of her sister, Rhoda was im- 
pressed by a mystical veneration for this man, and 
readily believed him to be above all other men, if not 
superhuman : for she was of an age and an imagination 
to conceive a spiritual pre-eminence over the weakness 
of mortality. She thought that one who could so 
transform her sister, touch her with awe, and give her 
gracefulness and humility, must be what Dahlia said 
he was. She asked shyly for his Christian name ; but 
even so little Dahlia withheld. It was his wish that 
Dahlia should keep silence concerning him. 

' Have you sworn an oath? ' said Rhoda wonderingly. 

* No, dear love,' Dahlia replied ; * he only mentioned 
what he desired.' 

Rhoda was ashamed of herself for thinking it strange, 
and she surrendered her judgement to be stamped by 
the one who knew him well. 

As regarded her uncle. Dahlia admitted that she had 
behaved forgetfully and unkindly, and promised amend- 
ment. She talked of the Farm as of an old ruin, with 
nothing but a thin shade of memory threading its 
walls, and appeared to marvel vaguely that it stood 
yet. * Father shall not always want money,' she said. 
She was particular in prescribing books for Rhoda to 
read ; good authors, she emphasized, and named books 
of history, and poets, and quoted their verses. * For 
my darling will some day have a dear husband, and 
he must not look down on her.' Rhoda shook her 
64 



RHODA FLEMING 

head, full sure that she could never be brought to chapter 
utter such musical words naturally. * Yes, dearest, ^ ^" 

J 7 w« , Great News 

when you know what love is/ said Dahlia in an under- from Dahlia 
breath. 

Could Robert inspire her with the power? Rhoda 
looked upon that poor homely young man half- 
curiously when she returned, and quite dismissed the 
notion. Besides she had no feeling for herself. Her 
passion was fixed upon her sister, whose record of 
emotions in the letters from London placed her be- 
yond dull days and nights. The letters struck many 
chords. A less subservient reader would have set 
them down as variations of the language of infatua- 
tion ; but Rhoda was responsive to every word and 
change of mood, from the, ' I am unworthy, degraded, 
wretched,' to *I am blest above the angels.' If one 
letter said, *We met yesterday,' Rhoda's heart beat 
on to the question, * Shall I see him again to-morrow ? ' 
And will she see him ? — has she seen him ? — agitated 
her and absorbed her thoughts. 

So humbly did she follow her sister, without daring 
to forecast a prospect for her, or dream of an issue, 
that when on a summer morning a letter was brought 
in at the breakfast-table, marked * urgent and private,' 
she opened it, and the first line dazzled her eyes — 
the surprise was a shock to her brain. She rose from 
her unfinished meal, and walked out into the wide air, 
feeling as if she walked on thunder. 

The letter ran thus : — 

* My own Innocent ! 
*I am married. We leave England to-day. I must 
not love you too much, for I have all my love to give 
9— E 65 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER to my Edward, my own now, and I am his trustingly 
Grea^News ^^^ ©ver. But he will let me give you some of it — 
from Dahlia and Rhoda is never jealous. She shall have a great 
deal. Only I am frightened when I think how immense 
my love is for him, so that anything — everything he 
thinks right is right to me. I am not afraid to think 
so. If I were to try, a cloud would come over me — 
it does, if only I fancy for half a moment I am rash, 
and a straw. I cannot exist except through him. So 
I must belong to him, and his will is my law. My 
prayer at my bedside every night is that I may die for 
him. We used to think the idea of death so terrible ! 
Do you remember how we used to shudder together 
at night when we thought of people lying in the 
grave ? And now, when I think that perhaps I may 
some day die for him, I feel like a crying in my 
heart with joy. 

*I have left a letter — sent it, I mean — enclosed to 
uncle for father. He will see Edward by-and-by. Oh ! 
may heaven spare him from any grief. Rhoda will 
comfort him. Tell him how devoted I am. I am like 
drowned to everybody but one. 

* We are looking on the sea. In half an hour I shall 
have forgotten the tread of English earth. I do not 
know that I breathe. All I know is a fear that I am 
flying, and my strength will not continue. That is 
when I am not touching his hand. There is France 
opposite. I shut my eyes and see the whole country, 
but it is like what I feel for Edward — all in dark 
moonlight. Oh ! I trust him so ! I bleed for him. 
I could make all my veins bleed out at a sad thought 
about him. And from France to Switzerland and Italy. 
The sea sparkles just as if it said " Come to the sun " ; 
66 



RHODA FLEMING 

and I am going. Edward calls. Shall I be punished chapter 
for so much happiness ? I am too happy, I am too GreaVLws 

happy. from Dahlia 

* God bless my beloved at home ! That is my chief 
prayer now. I shall think of her when I am in the 
cathedrals. 

* Oh, my Father in heaven ! bless them all ! bless 
Rhoda ! forgive me ! 

*I can hear the steam of the steamer at the pier. 
Here is Edward. He says I may send his love to you. 
*■ Address : — 

* Mrs. Edward Ayrton, 
* Poste Restante, 
* Lausanne, 

* Switzerland. 

* P.S. — Lausanne is where — but another time, and I 
will always tell you the history of the places to in- 
struct you, poor heart in dull England. Adieu ! Good- 
bye and God bless my innocent at home, my dear 
sister. I love her. I never can forget her. The day is 
so lovely. It seems on purpose for us. Be sure you 
write on thin paper to Lausanne. It is on a blue lake; 
you see snow mountains, and now there is a bell 
ringing — kisses from me ! we start. I must sign. 

* Dahlia.' 

By the reading of this letter, Rhoda was caught 
vividly to the shore, and saw her sister borne away 
in the boat to the strange countries ; she travelled with 
her, following her with gliding speed through a multi- 
plicity of shifting scenes, opal landscapes, full of fire 
and dreams, and in all of them a great bell towered. 

67 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER ' Oh, my sweet ! my own beauty! * she cried in Dahlia's 

GreaT^News language. Meeting Mrs. Sumfit, she called her * Mother 

from Dahlia Dumpling,' as Dahlia did of old, affectionately, and 

kissed her, and ran on to Master Gammon, who was 

tramping leisurely on to the oatfield lying on toward 

the millholms. 

' My sister sends you her love,* she said brightly to 
the old man. Master Gammon responded with no 
remarkable flash of his eyes, and merely opened his 
mouth and shut it, as when a duck divides its bill, 
but fails to emit the customary quack. 

* And to you, little pigs ; and to you. Mulberry, and 
you. Dapple ; and you, and you, and you.* 

Rhoda nodded round to all the citizens of the farm- 
yard ; and so eased her heart of its laughing bubbles. 
After which, she fell to a meditative walk of demurer 
joy, and had a regret. It was simply that Dahlia's 
hurry in signing the letter, had robbed her of the de- 
light of seeing * Dahlia Ayrton * written proudly out, 
with its wonderful signification of the change in her 
life. 

That was a trifling matter ; yet Rhoda felt the letter 
was not complete in the absence of the bridal name. 
She fancied Dahlia to have meant, perhaps, that she was 
Dahlia to her as of old, and not a stranger. * Dahlia 
ever; Dahlia nothing else for you,* she heard her 
sister say. But how delicious and mournful, how 
terrible and sweet with meaning would * Dahlia Ayrton,* 
the new name in the dear handwriting, have looked ! 
*And I have a brother-in-law,' she thought, and her 
cheeks tingled. The banks of fern and foxglove, and 
the green young oaks fringing the copse, grew rich in 
colour, as she reflected that this beloved unknown 
6S 



RHODA FLEMING 

husband of her sister embraced her and her father as chapter 
well ; even the old bent beggarman on the sandy ridge, GreaVLws 
though he had a starved frame and carried pitiless from Dahlia 
faggots, stood illumined in a soft warmth. Rhoda 
could not go back to the house. 

It chanced that the farmer that morning had been 
smitten with the virtue of his wife's opinion of Robert, 
and her parting recommendation concerning him. 

* Have you a mind to either one of my two girls ? ' 
he put the question bluntly, finding himself alone with 
Robert. 

Robert took a quick breath, and replied, * I have.' 

* Then make your choice,' said the farmer, and tried 
to go about his business, but hung near Robert in the 
fields till he had asked : * Which one is it, my boy ? ' 

Robert turned a blade of wheat in his mouth. 

<I think I shall leave her to tell that,' was his 
answer. 

*Why, don't ye know which one you prefer to 
choose, man ? ' quoth Mr. Fleming. 

* I mayn't know whether she prefers to choose me,' 
said Robert. 

The farmer smiled. 

* You never can exactly reckon about them ; that 's 
true.' 

He was led to think : ' Dahlia 's the lass ' ; seeing that 
Robert had not had many opportunities of speaking 
with her. 

* When my girls are wives, they '11 do their work in 
the house,' he pursued. * They may have a little bit 
o' property in land, ye know, and they may have a 
share in — in gold. That's not to be reckoned on. 
We 're an old family, Robert, and I suppose we 've our 

69 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER pride somewhere down. Anyhow, you can't look on 

VII 

Great News ^y ^^^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^ ^^^Y '^® Superior girls. I Ve no 
from Dahlia notiou of forcing them to clean, and dish up, and do 
dairying, if it 's not to their turn. They 're handy with 
th' needle. They dress comformably, and do the mil- 
linery themselves. And I know they say their prayers 
of a night. That I know, if that's a comfort to ye, 
and it should be, Robert. For pray, and you can't go 
far wrong ; and it 's particularly good for girls. I '11 
say no more.' 

At the dinner-table, Rhoda was not present. Mr. 
Fleming fidgeted, blamed her and excused her, but as 
Robert appeared indifferent about her absence, he 
was confirmed in his idea that Dahlia attracted his 
fancy. 

They had finished dinner, and Master Gammon had 
risen, when a voice immediately recognized as the 
voice of Anthony Hackbut was heard in the front part 
of the house. Mr. Fleming went round to him with 
a dismayed face. 

' Lord ! ' said Mrs. Sumfit, ' how I tremble ! ' 

Robert, too, looked grave, and got away from the 
house. The dread of evil news of Dahlia was common 
to them all; yet none had mentioned it, Robert con- 
ceiving that it would be impertinence on his part 
to do so; the farmer, that the policy of permitting 
Dahlia's continued residence in London concealed the 
peril; while Mrs. Sumfit flatly defied the threatening 
of a mischance to one so sweet and fair, and her 
favourite. It is the insincerity of persons of their 
class; but one need not lay stress on the wilfulness 
of uneducated minds. Robert walked across the fields, 
walking like a man with an object in view. As he 
70 



RHODA FLEMING 

dropped into one of the close lanes which led up to chapter 
Wrexby Hall, he saw Rhoda standing under an oak, crcaYNews 
her white morning-dress covered with sun-spots. His from Dahna 
impulse was to turn back, the problem, how to speak 
to her, not being settled within him. But the next 
moment his blood chilled ; for he had perceived, 
though he had not felt simultaneously, that two gentle- 
men were standing near her, addressing her. And 
it was likewise manifest that she listened to them. 
These presently raised their hats and disappeared. 
Rhoda came on toward Robert. 

*You have forgotten your dinner,' he said, with a 
queer sense of shame at dragging in the mention of 
that meal. 

* I have been too happy to eat,' Rhoda replied. 
Robert glanced up the lane, but she gave no heed to 

this indication, and asked : * Has uncle come ? ' 

* Did you expect him ? ' 

* I thought he would come.' 

' What has made you happy ? ' 

* You will hear from uncle.' 

* Shall I go and hear what those ' 

Robert checked himself, but it would have been 
better had he spoken out. Rhoda's face, from a light 
of interrogation, lowered its look to contempt. 

She did not affect the feminine simplicity which can 
so prettily misunderstand and put by an implied accu- 
sation of that nature. Doubtless her sharp instinct 
served her by telling her that her contempt would 
hurt him shrewdly now. The foolishness of a man 
having much to say to a woman, and not knowing 
how or where the beginning of it might be, was per- 
ceptible about him. A shout from her father at the 

71 



CHAPTER 
VII 

Great News 
from Dahlia 



RHODA FLEMING 

open garden-gate, hurried on Rhoda to meet him. Old 
Anthony was at Mr. Fleming's elbow. 

* You know it ? You have her letter, father ? ' said 
Rhoda gaily, beneath the shadow of his forehead. 

*And a Queen of the Egyptians is what you might 
have been,* said Anthony, with a speculating eye upon 
Rhoda's dark bright face. 

Rhoda put out her hand to him, but kept her gaze 
on her father. 

William Fleming relaxed the knot of his brows and 
lifted the letter. 

* Listen all ! This is from a daughter to her father.' 
And he read, oddly accentuating the first syllables 

of the sentences : — 



* Dear Father, 

* My husband will bring me to see you when I 
return to dear England. I ought to have concealed 
nothing, I know. Try to forgive me. I hope you will. 
I shall always think of you. God bless you ! 

'I am, 
* Ever with respect, 

* Your dearly loving Daughter, 

* Dahlia.* 



* Dahlia Blank ! * said the farmer, turning his look 
from face to face. 

A deep fire of emotion was evidently agitating him, 
for the letter rustled in his hand, and his voice was 
uneven. Of this, no sign was given by his inexpres- 
sive features. The round brown eyes and the ruddy 
varnish on his cheeks were a mask upon grief, if not 
also upon joy. 
72 



RHODA FLEMING 

* Dahlia — what ? What 's her name ? ' he resumed, chapter 

* Here — " my husband will bring me to see you '* — Great" cws 
who's her husband? Has he got a name? And a fromDahiia 
blank envelope to her uncle here, who 's kept her 

in comfort for so long ! And this is all she writes 
to me! Will any one spell out the meaning of 
it?' 

* Dahlia was in great haste, father,' said Rhoda. 

* Oh, ay, you ! — you 're the one, I know,' returned 
the farmer. * It 's sister and sister, with you.' 

'But she was very, very hurried, father. I have 
a letter from her, and I have only " Dahlia " written 
at the end — no other name.' 

*And you suspect no harm of your sister.' 

* Father, how can I imagine any kind of harm ? ' 

* That letter, my girl, sticks to my skull as though 
it meant to say, "You've not understood me yet." 
I 've read it a matter of twenty times, and I 'm no 
nearer to the truth of it. But, if she 's lying, here 
in this letter, what 's she walking on ? How long 
are we to wait for to hear? I give you my word, 
Robert, I 'm feeling for you as I am for myself. Or, 
wasn't it that one ? Is it this one ? ' He levelled his 
finger at Rhoda. * In any case, Robert, you '11 feel for 
me as a father. I'm shut in a dark room with the 
candle blown out. I 've heard of a sort of fear you 
have in that dilemmer, lest you should lay your 
fingers on edges of sharp knives, and if I think a 
step — if I go thinking a step, and feel my way, I 
do cut myself, and I bleed, I do. Robert, just take 
and say, it wasn't that one.' 

Such a statement would carry with it the confession 
that it was this one for whom he cared — this scornful 

73 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER one, this jilt, this brazen girl who could make appoint- 
GreaT^ews ^^©^ts with gentlemen, or suffer them to speak to her, 
from Dahlia and Subsequently look at him with innocence and with 
anger. 

* Believe me, Mr. Fleming, I feel for you as much 
as a man can,' he said uneasily, swaying half round 
as he spoke. 

*Do you suspect anything bad?' The farmer re- 
peated the question, like one who only wanted a 
confirmation of his own suspicions to see the fact 
built up. < Robert, does this look like the letter of 
a married woman? Is it daughter-like — eh, man? 
Help another: I can't think for myself — she ties my 
hands. Speak out.' 

Robert set his eyes on Rhoda. He would have given 
much to have been able to utter, ' I do.' Her face was 
like an eager flower straining for light; the very beauty 
of it swelled his jealous passion, and he flattered him- 
self with his incapacity to speak an abject lie to pro- 
pitiate her. 

'She says she is married. We're bound to accept 
what she says.' 

That was his answer. 

* Is she married ? ' thundered the farmer. ' Has she 
been and disgraced her mother in her grave ? What 
am I to think ? She 's my flesh and blood. Is 
she ' 

*0h, hush, father!' Rhoda laid her hand on his 
arm. 'What doubt can there be of Dahlia? You 
have forgotten that she is always truthful. Come 
away. It is shameful to stand here and listen to 
unmanly things.' 

She turned a face of ashes upon Robert. 
74 



RHODA FLEMING 

'Come away, father. She is our own. She is my chapter 

sister. A doubt of her is an insult to us.* crcaT" ews 

* But Robert don't doubt her — eh ? ' The farmer was from Dahiia 
already half distracted from his suspicions. * Have you 

any real doubt about the girl, Robert ? ' 

* I don't trust myself to doubt anybody,' said Robert. 

* You don't cast us off, my boy ? ' 

*I'm a labourer on the farm,' said Robert, and 
walked away. 

* He 's got reason to feel this more 'n the rest of us, 
poor lad ! It 's a blow to him.' With which the 
farmer struck his hand on Rhoda's shoulder. * I wish 
he 'd set his heart on a safer young woman.' 

Rhoda's shudder of revulsion was visible as she put 
her mouth up to kiss her father's cheek. 



CHAPTER VIII 

Introduces Mrs. Lovell 

That is Wrexby Hall, upon the hill between Fenhurst 
and Wrexby : the white square mansion, with the 
lower drawing-room windows one full bow of glass 
against the sunlight, and great single trees spotting 
the distant green slopes. From Queen Anne's Farm 
you could read the hour by the stretching of their 
shadows. Squire Blancove, who lived there, was an 
irascible, gouty man, out of humour with his time, 
and beginning, alas for him ! to lose all true faith 
in his Port, though, to do him justice, he wrestled 
hard with this great heresy. His friends perceived 
the decay in his belief sooner than he did himself. 

75 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

VIII 
Introduces 
Mrs. Lovell 



He was sour in the evening as in the morning. There 
was no chirp in him when the bottle went round. He 
had never one hour of a humane mood to be reckoned 
on now. The day, indeed, is sad when we see the 
skeleton of the mistress by whom we suffer, but can- 
not abandon her. The squire drank, knowing that the 
issue would be the terrific, curse-begetting twinge in 
his foot; but, as he said, he was a man who stuck 
to his habits. It was over his Port that he had 
quarrelled with his rector on the subject of hopeful 
Algernon, and the system he adopted with that young 
man. This incident has something to do with Rhoda's 
story, for it was the reason why Mrs. Lovell went to 
Wrexby Church, the spirit of that lady leading her 
to follow her own impulses, which were mostly in 
opposition. So, when perchance she visited the Hall, 
she chose not to accompany the squire and his sub- 
servient guests to Fenhurst, but made a point of going 
down to the unoccupied Wrexby pew. She was a 
beauty, and therefore powerful; otherwise her act of 
nonconformity would have produced bad blood between 
her and the squire. 

It was enough to have done so in any case ; for now, 
instead of sitting at home comfortably, and reading off 
the week's chronicle of sport while he nursed his leg, 
the unfortunate gentleman had to be up and away to 
Fenhurst every Sunday morning, or who would have 
known that the old cause of his general abstention 
from Sabbath services lay in the detestable doctrine 
of Wrexby's rector ? 

Mrs. Lovell was now at the Hall, and it was Sun- 
day morning after breakfast. The lady stood like a 
rival head among the other guests, listening, gloved 
76 



RHODA FLEMING 

and bonneted, to the bells of Wrexby, West of the 
hills, and of Fenhurst, North-east. The squire came 
in to them, groaning over his boots, cross with his 
fragile wife, and in every mood for satire, except to 
receive it. 

* How difficult it is to be gouty SLndg-oodl * murmured 
Mrs. Lovell to the person next her. 

*Well,' said the squire, singling out his enemy, 
* you 're going to that fellow, I suppose, as usual — eh ?' 

*Not "as usual,'" replied Mrs. Lovell sweetly; *I 
wish it were ! ' 

* Wish it were, do you ? — you find him so entertain- 
ing ? Has he got to talking of the fashions ? ' 

* He talks properly ; I don't ask for more.' Mrs. 
Lovell assumed an air of meekness under persecution. 

* I thought you were Low Church.' 

* Lowly of the Church, I trust you thought,' she 
corrected him. *But, for that matter, any discourse, 
plainly delivered, will suit me.' 

*His elocution's perfect,' said the squire; *that is, 
before dinner.' 

*I have only to do with him before dinner, you 
know.' 

* Well, I 've ordered a carriage out for you.' 

* That is very honourable and kind.' 

* It would be kinder if I contrived to keep you away 
from the fellow.' 

* Would it not be kinder to yourself,' Mrs. Lovell 
swam forward to him in all tenderness, taking his 
hands, and fixing the swimming blue of her soft eyes 
upon him pathetically, *if you took your paper and 
your slippers, and awaited our return ? ' 

The squire felt the circulating smile about the room. 

7? 



CHAPTER 

VIII 
Introduces 
Mrs. Lovell 




RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER He rebuked the woman's audacity with a frown ; * Tis 
Introduces ^y ^"*y *^ ®^^ ^^ example,' he said, his gouty foot and 
Mrs. Loveii irritable temper now meeting in a common fire. 

* Since you are setting an example,' rejoined the 
exquisite widow, * I have nothing more to say.' 

The squire looked what he dared not speak. A 
woman has half, a beauty has all the world with her 
when she is self-contained, and holds her place ; and 
it was evident that Mrs. Lovell was not one to abandon 
her advantages. He snapped round for a victim, trying 
his wife first. Then his eyes rested upon Algernon. 

* Well, here we are ; which of us will you take ? ' he 
asked Mrs. Lovell in blank irony. 

*I have engaged my cavalier, who is waiting, and 
will be as devout as possible.' Mrs. Lovell gave 
Algernon a smile. 

* I thought I hit upon the man,' growled the squire. 
'You're going in to Wrexby, sir! Oh, go, by all 
means, and I sha'n't be astonished at what comes 
of it. Like teacher, like pupil ! ' 

* There ! ' Mrs. Lovell gave Algernon another smile. 
* You have to bear the sins of your rector, as well as 
your own. Can you support it ? ' 

The flimsy fine dialogue was a little above Algernon's 
level in the society of ladies ; but he muttered, bowing, 
that he would endeavour to support it, with Mrs. 
Lovell's help, and this did well enough ; after which, 
the slight strain on the intellects of the assemblage 
relaxed, and ordinary topics were discussed. The 
carriages came round to the door ; gloves, parasols, 
and scent-bottles were securely grasped; whereupon 
the squire, standing bare-headed on the steps, insisted 
upon seeing the party of the opposition off first, and 
78 



RHODA FLEMING 

waited to hand Mrs. Lovell into her carriage, an ironic chapter 
gallantry accepted by the lady with serenity befitting int^"ices 
the sacred hour. Mrs. Loveii 

' Ah ! my pencil, to mark the text for you, squire,* 
she said, taking her seat ; and Algernon turned back 
at her bidding, to get a pencil ; and she, presenting a 
most harmonious aspect in the lovely landscape, re- 
clined in the carriage as if, like the sweet summer air, 
.she too were quieted by those holy bells, while the 
squire stood, fuming, bare-headed, and with boiling 
blood, just within the bounds of decorum, on the steps. 
She was more than his match. 

She was more than a match for most ; and it was 
not a secret. Algernon knew it as well as Edward, or 
any one. She was a terror to the soul of the youth, 
and an attraction. Her smile was the richest flattery 
he could feel ; the richer, perhaps, from his feeling it 
to be a thing impossible to fix. He had heard tales of 
her; he remembered Edward's warning; but he was 
very humbly sitting with her now, and very happy. 

* I 'm in for it,' he said to his fair companion ; * no 
cheque for me next quarter, and no chance of an in- 
crease. He '11 tell me I 've got a salary. A salary ! 
Good Lord ! what a man comes to ! I 've done for 
myself with the squire for a year.' 

*You must think whether you have compensation,* 
said the lady, and he received it in a cousinly squeeze 
of his hand. 

He was about to raise the lank white hand to his lips. 

*Ah ! * she said, * there would be no compensation to 
me, if that were seen ' ; and her dainty hand was with- 
drawn. *Now, tell me,* she changed her tone. *How 
do the loves prosper ? * 

79 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

VIII 
Introduces 
Mrs. Lovell 



Algernon begged her not to call them * loves.' She 
nodded and smiled. , 

*Your artistic admirations,' she observed. *I am to 
see her in church, am I not? Only, my dear Algy, 
don't go too far. Rustic beauties are as dangerous 
as Court Princesses. Where was it you saw her first ? ' 

*At the Bank,' said Algernon. 

* Really ! at the Bank ! So your time there is not abso- 
lutely wasted. What brought her to London, I wonder ? ' 

*Well, she has an old uncle, a queer old fellow, and 
he's a sort of porter — money porter — in the Bank, 
awfully honest, or he might half break it some fine 
day, if he chose to cut and run. She 's got a sister, 
prettier than this girl, the fellows say; I've never 
seen her. I expect I 've seen a portrait of her, though.' 

* Ah ! ' Mrs. Lovell musically drew him on. * Was 
she dark, too ? ' 

* No, she 's fair. At least, she is in the portrait.' 
' Brown hair ; hazel eyes ? * 

* Oh — oh ! You guess, do you ? ' 

* I guess nothing, though it seems profitable. That 
Yankee betting man "guesses," and what heaps of 
money he makes by it ! ' 

* I wish I did,' Algernon sighed. * All my guessing 
and reckoning goes wrong. I 'm safe for next Spring, 
that's one comfort. I shall make twenty thousand 
next Spring.' 

* On Templemore ? * 

* That 's the horse. I 've got a little on Tenpenny 
Nail as well. But I 'm quite safe on Templemore ; 
unless the Evil Principle comes into the field.' 

*Is he so sure to be against you, if he does appear?' 
said Mrs. Lovell. 
80 



RHODA FLEMING 

'Certain! ' ejaculated Algernon, in honest indignation, chapter 

* Well, Algy, I don't like to have him on my side. inJ^l^ces 
Perhaps I will take a share in your luck, to make it — ? Mrs. Loveii 
to make it ? ' — She played prettily as a mistress teasing 

her lap-dog to jump for a morsel ; adding : * Oh ! Algy, 
you are not a Frenchman. To make it divine, sir! 
you have missed your chance.' 

* There 's one chance I shouldn't like to miss,' said 
the youth. 

* Then, do not mention it,' she counselled him. * And, 
seriously, I will take a part of your risk. I fear I am 
lucky, which is ruinous. We will settle that, by-and- 
by. Do you know, Algy, the most expensive position 
in the world is a widow's.' 

* You needn't be one very long,' growled he. 

* I 'm so wretchedly fastidious, don't you see ? And 
it 's best not to sigh when we 're talking of business, 
if you '11 take me for a guide. So, the old man brought 
this pretty rustic Miss Rhoda to the Bank ? ' 

* Once,' said Algernon. * Just as he did with her 
sister. He's proud of his nieces; shows them and 
then hides them. The fellows at the Bank never saw 
her again.' 

* Her name is ? ' 

' Dahlia.' 

*Ah, yes! — Dahlia. Extremely pretty. There are 
brown dahlias — dahlias of all colours. And the por- 
trait of this fair creature hangs up in your chambers 
in town ? ' 

* Don't call them my chambers,' Algernon pro- 
tested. 

* Your cousin's, if you like. Probably Edward hap- 
pened to be at the Bank when fair Dahlia paid her 

9— F 8i 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER visit. Once seems to have been enough for both 

Intr'^dLs of you.' 

Mrs.Loveii Algernon was unread in the hearts of women, and 
imagined that Edward's defection from Mrs. Lovell's 
s>yay had deprived him of the lady's sympathy and 
interest in his fortunes. 

* Poor old Ned 's in some scrape, I think,' he said. 
^ Where is he ? ' the lady asked languidly. 

* Paris.' 

* Paris ? How very odd ! And out of the season, in 
this hot weather. It 's enough to lead me to dream that 
he has gone over — one cannot realize why.' 

*Upon my honour! ' Algernon thumped on his knee; 
* by jingo ! ' he adopted a less compromising inter- 
jection; * Ned's fool enough. My idea is, he's gone 
and got married.' 

Mrs. Lovell was lying back with the neglectful grace 
of incontestable beauty; not a line to wrinkle her 
smooth soft features. For one sharp instant her face 
was all edged and puckered, like the face of a fair 
witch. She sat upright. 

* Married ! But how can that be when we none of 
us have heard a word of it ? ' 

*I daresay you haven't,' said Algernon; *and not 
likely to. Ned 's the closest fellow of my acquaint- 
ance. He hasn't taken me into his confidence, you 
may be sure : he knows I 'm too leaky. There 's no 
bore like a secret ! I 've come to my conclusion in 
this affair by putting together a lot of little incidents 
and adding them up. First, I believe he was at the 
Bank when that fair girl was seen there. Secondly, 
from the description the fellows give of her, I should 
take her to be the original of the portrait. Next, I 
82 



RHODA FLEMING 

know that Rhoda has a fair sister who has run for it. chapter 
And last, Rhoda has had a letter from her sister, to , ^"^ 

' ' Introduces 

say she 's away to the Continent and is married. Ned 's Mrs. Loveii 
in Paris. Those are my facts, and I give you my 
reckoning of them.' 

Mrs. Lovell gazed at Algernon for one long medi- 
tative moment. • 

* Impossible,* she exclaimed. * Edward has more 
brains than heart.' And now the lady's face was 
scarlet. * How did this Rhoda, with her absurd name, 
think of meeting you to tell you such stuff? Indeed, 
there 's a simplicity in some of these young women 
' She said the remainder to herself. 

' She 's really very innocent and good,' Algernon 
defended Rhoda. *She is. There isn't a particle of 
nonsense in her. I first met her in town, as I stated, 
at the Bank; just on the steps, and we remembered 
I had called a cab for her a little before ; and I met her 
again by accident yesterday.' 

*You are only a boy in their hands, my cousin 
Algy ! ' said Mrs. Lovell. 

Algernon nodded with a self-defensive knowingness. 
* I fancy there 's no doubt her sister has written to her 
that she's married. It's certain she has. She's a 
blunt sort of girl ; not one to lie, not even for a sister 
or a lover, unless she had previously made up her 
mind to it. In that case, she wouldn't stick at much.' 

* But, do you know,' said Mrs. Lovell — ' do you 
know that Edward's father would be worse than yours 
over such an act of folly ? He would call it an offence 
against common sense, and have no mercy for it. He 
would be vindictive on principle. This story of yours 
cannot be true. Nothing reconciles it.* 

83 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER <0h, Sir Billy will be rusty; that stands to reason,' 
Introduces Algernon assented. * It mayn't be true. I hope it isn't. 
Mrs. Loveii But Ned has a madness for fair women. He 'd do any- 
thing on earth for them. He loses his head entirely.' 

* That he may have been imprudent ' Mrs. Lovell 

thus blushingly hinted at the lesser sin of his deceiving 
and ruining the girl. 

* Oh, it needn't be true,' said Algernon ; and with 
meaning, * Who 's to blame if it is ? ' 

Mrs. Lovell again reddened. She touched Algernon's 
fingers. 

* His friends mustn't forsake him, in any case.' 

' By Jove ! you are the right sort of woman,' cried 
Algernon. 

It was beyond his faculties to divine that her not 
forsaking of Edward might haply come to mean some- 
thing disastrous to him. The touch of Mrs. Lovell's 
hand made him forget Rhoda in a twinkling. He 
detained it, audaciously, even until she frowned with 
petulance and stamped her foot. 

There was over her bosom a large cameo-brooch, 
representing a tomb under a palm-tree, and the figure 
of a veiled woman with her head bowed upon the 
tomb. This brooch was falling, when Algernon caught 
it. The pin tore his finger, and in the energy of pain 
he dashed the brooch to her feet, with immediate 
outcries of violent disgust at himself and exclamations 
for pardon. He picked up the brooch. It was open. 
A strange, discoloured, folded- substance lay on the 
floor of the carriage. Mrs. Lovell gazed down at it, 
and then at him, ghastly pale. He lifted it by one 
corner, and the diminutive folded squares came out, 
revealing a strip of red-stained handkerchief. 

84 



RHODA FLEMING 

Mrs. Lovell grasped it, and thrust it out of sight. chapter 



VIII 
Introduces 



She spoke as they approached the church-door : 
* Mention nothing of this to a soul, or you forfeit my Mrs. Loveii 
friendship for ever.' 

When they alighted, she was smiling in her old 
affable manner. 



CHAPTER IX 

Robert Intervenes 

Some consideration for Robert, after all, as being the 
man who loved her, sufficed to give him rank as a 
more elevated kind of criminal in Rhoda's sight, and 
exquisite torture of the highest form was administered 
to him. Her faith in her sister was so sure that she 
could half pardon him for the momentary harm he 
had done to Dahlia with her father; but, judging him 
by the lofty standard of one who craved to be her 
husband, she could not pardon his unmanly hesitation 
and manner of speech. The old and deep grievance in 
her heart as to what men thought of women, and as 
to the harshness of men, was stirred constantly by 
the remembrance of his irresolute looks, and his not 
having dared to speak nobly for Dahlia, even though 
he might have had the knavery to think evil. As the 
case stood, there was still mischief to counteract. 
Her father had willingly swallowed a drug, but his 
suspicions only slumbered, and she could not instil 
her own vivid hopefulness and trust into him. Letters 
from Dahlia came regularly. The first, from Lausanne, 
favoured Rhoda's conception of her as of a happy 

$5 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

IX 

Robert 

Intervenes 



Spirit resting at celestial stages of her ascent upward 
through spheres of ecstacy. Dahlia could see the 
snow-mountains in a flying glimpse ; and again, peace- 
fully seated, she could see the snow-mountains re- 
flected in clear blue waters from her window, which, 
Rhoda thought, must be like heaven. On these inspired 
occasions, Robert presented the form of a malignant 
serpent in her ideas. Then Dahlia made excursions 
upon glaciers with her beloved, her helpmate, and 
had slippings and tumblings — little earthly casualties 
which gave a charming sense of reality to her other- 
wise miraculous flight. The Alps were crossed : Italy 
was beheld. A profusion of * Oh*s ! ' described Dahlia's 
impressions of Italy ; and * Oh ! the heat ! ' showed her 
to be mortal, notwithstanding the sublime exclama- 
tions. Como received the blissful couple. Dahlia 
wrote from Como : — 

* Tell father that gentlemen in my Edward's position 
cannot always immediately proclaim their marriage 
to the world. There are reasons. I hope he has been 
very angry with me: then it will be soon over, and 
we shall be — but I cannot look back. I shall not 
look back till we reach Venice. At Venice, I know I 
shall see you all as clear as day ; but I cannot even 
remember the features of my darling here.' 

Her Christian name was still her only signature. 

The thin blue-and-pink paper, and the foreign post- 
marks — testifications to Dahlia's journey not being a 
fictitious event, had a singular deliciousness for the 
solitary girl at the Farm. At times, as she turned 
them over, she was startled by the intoxication of 
her sentiments, for the wild thought would come, that 
many, many whose passionate hearts she could feel as 
86 



RHODA FLEMING 

her own, were ready to abandon principle and the chapter 
bondage to the hereafter, for such a long delicious Robert 
gulp of divine life. Rhoda found herself more than intervenes 
once brooding on the possible case that Dahlia had 
done this thing. 

The fit of languor came on her unawares, probing 
at her weakness, and blinding her to the laws and 
duties of earth, until her conscious womanhood 
checked it, and she sprang from the vision in a 
spasm of terror, not knowing how far she had fallen. 

After such personal experiences, she suffered great 
longings to be with her sister, that the touch of her 
hand, the gaze of her eyes, the tone of Dahlia's voice, 
might make her sure of her sister's safety. 

Rhoda's devotions in church were frequently dis- 
tracted by the occupants of the Blancove pew. Mrs. 
Lovell had the habit of looking at her with an ex- 
traordinary directness, an expressionless dissecting 
scrutiny, that was bewildering and confusing to the 
country damsel. Algernon likewise bestowed marked 
attention on her. Some curious hints had been thrown 
out to her by this young gentleman on the day when 
he ventured to speak to her in the lane, which led 
her to fancy distantly that he had some acquaintance 
with Dahlia's husband, or that he had heard of 
Dahlia. 

It was clear to Rhoda that Algernon sought another 
interview. He appeared in the neighbourhood of the 
farm on Saturdays, and on Sundays he was present 
in the church, sometimes with Mrs. Lovell, and some- 
times without a companion. His appearance sent her 
quick wits travelling through many scales of possible 
conduct: and they struck one ringing note: — she 

87 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

IX 

Robert 

Intervenes 



thought that by the aid of this gentleman a lesson 
might be given to Robert's mean nature. It was part 
of Robert's punishment to see that she was not uncon- 
scious of Algernon's admiration. 

The first letter from Venice consisted of a series of 
interjections in praise of the poetry of gondolas, varied 
by allusions to the sad smell of the low tide water, 
and the amazing quality of the heat ; and then Dahlia 
wrote more composedly : — 

'Titian the painter lived here, and painted ladies, 
who sat to him without a bit of garment on, and 
indeed, my darling, I often think it was more comfort- 
able for the model than for the artist. Even modesty 
seems too hot a covering for human creatures here. 
The sun strikes me down. I am ceasing to have a 
complexion. It is pleasant to know that my Edward 
is still proud of me. He has made acquaintance with 
some of the officers here, and seems pleased at the 
compliments they pay me. 

* They have nice manners, and white uniforms that 
fit them like a kid glove. I am Edward's " resplendent 
wife." A colonel of one of the regiments invited him 
to dinner (speaking English), "with your resplendent 
wife." Edward has no mercy for errors of language, 
and he would not take me. Ah! who knows how 
strange men are ! Never think of being happy unless 
you can always be blind. I see you all at home — 
Mother Dumpling and all — as I thought I should 
when I was to come to Venice. 

< Persuade — do persuade father that everything will 

be well. Some persons are to be trusted. Make him 

feel it. I know that I am life itself to Edward. He 

has lived as men do, and he can judge, and he knows 

88 



RHODA FLEMING 



that there never was a wife who brought a heart to 
her husband like mine to him. He wants to think, or 
he wants to smoke, and he leaves me ; but, oh ! when 
he returns, he can scarcely believe that he has me, his 
joy is so great. He looks like a glad thankful child, 
and he has the manliest of faces. It is generally 
thoughtful; you might think it hard, 2X first sight. 

*But you must be beautiful to please some men. 
You will laugh — I have really got the habit of talking 
to my face and all myself in the glass. Rhoda would 
think me cracked. And it is really true that I was 
never so humble about my good looks. You used to 
spoil me at home — you and that wicked old Mother 
Dumpling, and our own dear mother, Rhoda — oh ! 
mother, mother ! I wish I had always thought of you 
looking down on me ! You made me so vain — much 
more vain than I let you see I was. There were times 
when it is quite true I thought myself a princess. I 
am not worse-looking now, but I suppose I desire to 
be so beautiful that nothing satisfies me. 

*■ A spot on my neck gives me a dreadful fright. If 
my hair comes out much when I comb it, it sets my 
heart beating ; and it is a daily misery to me that 
my hands are larger than they should be, belonging 
to Edward's " resplendent wife." I thank heaven that 
you and I always saw the necessity of being careful of 
our finger-nails. My feet are of moderate size, though 
they are not French feet, as Edward says. No : I shall 
never dance. He sent me to the dancing-master in 
London, but it was too late. But I have been com- 
plimented on my walking, and that seems to please 
Edward. He does not dance (or mind dancing) him- 
self, only he does not like me to miss one perfection. 

89 



CHAPTER 
IX 

Robert 
Intervenes 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

IX 

Robert 

Intervenes 



It is his love. Oh ! if I have seemed to let you sup- 
pose he does not love me as ever, do not think it. He 
is most tender and true to me. Addio ! I am signora^ 
you are signorina. 

* They have such pretty manners to us over here. 
Edward says they think less of women : I say they 
think more. But I feel he must be right. Oh, my 
dear, cold, loving, innocent sister ! put out your arms ; 
I shall feel them round me, and kiss you, kiss you 
for ever ! ' 

Onward from city to city, like a radiation of light 
from the old farm-house, where so little of it was. 
Dahlia continued her journey ; and then, without a 
warning, with only a word to say that she neared 
Rome, the letters ceased. A chord snapped in Rhoda's 
bosom. While she was hearing from her sister almost 
weekly, her confidence was buoyed on a summer sea. 
In the silence it fell upon a dread. She had no answer 
in her mind for her father's unspoken dissatisfaction, 
and she had to conceal her cruel anxiety. There was 
an interval of two months : a blank fell charged with 
apprehension that was like the humming of a toneless 
wind before storm ; worse than the storm, for any 
human thing to bear. 

Rhoda was unaware that Robert, who rarely looked 
at her, and never sought to speak a word to her when 
by chance they met and were alone, studied each 
change in her face, and read its signs. He was left 
to his own interpretation of them, but the signs he 
knew accurately. He knew that her pride had sunk, 
and that her heart was desolate. He believed that she 
had discovered her sister's misery. 

One day a letter arrived that gave her no joyful 
90 



RHODA FLEMING 

colouring, though it sent colour to her cheeks. She 
opened it, evidently not knowing the handwriting ; her 
eyes ran down the lines hurriedly. After a time she 
went upstairs for her bonnet. 

At the stile leading into that lane where Robert had 
previously seen her, she was stopped by him. 

*No farther,' was all that he said, and he was one 
who could have interdicted men from advancing. 

* Why may I not go by you ? ' said Rhoda, with a 
woman's affected humbleness. 

Robert joined his hands. * You go no farther, Miss 
Rhoda, unless you take me with you.' 

* I shall not do that, Mr. Robert.' 

* Then you had better return home.* 

* Will you let me know what reasons you have for 
behaving in this manner to me ? ' 

^ I '11 let you know by-and-by,' said Robert. * At 
present, you '11 let the stronger of the two have 
his way.' 

He had always been so meek and gentle and in- 
offensive, that her contempt had enjoyed free play, 
and had never risen to anger ; but violent anger now 
surged against him, and she cried, 'Do you dare to 
touch me ? ' trying to force her passage by. 

Robert caught her softly by the wrist. There stood 
at the same time a fuU-statured strength of will in his 
eyes, under which her own fainted. 

* Go back,' he said ; and she turned that he might 
not see her tears of irritation and shame. He was 
treating her as a child ; but it was to herself alone 
that she could defend herself. She marvelled that 
when she thought of an outspoken complaint against 
him, her conscience gave her no support. 

91 



CHAPTER 

IX 

Robert 

Intervenes 



CHAPTER 

IX 

Robert 

Intervenes 



RHODA FLEMING 

* Is there no freedom for a woman at all in this world ? ' 
Rhoda framed the bitter question. 

Rhoda went back as she had come. Algernon 
Blancove did the same. Between them stood Robert, 
thinking, *Now I have made that girl hate me for 
life.' 

It was in November that a letter, dated from London, 
reached the farm, quickening Rhoda's blood anew. * I 
am alive,' said Dahlia ; and she said little more, except 
that she was waiting to see her sister, and bade her 
urgently to travel up alone. Her father consented to 
her doing so. After a consultation with Robert, how- 
ever, he determined to accompany her. 

* She can't object to see me too,' said the farmer ; and 
Rhoda answered *No.' But her face was bronze to 
Robert when they took their departure. 



CHAPTER X 
Dahlia is not Visible 

Old Anthony was expecting them in London. It was 
now Winter, and the season for theatres ; so, to show 
his brother-in-law the fun of a theatre was one part of 
his projected hospitality, if Mr. Fleming should haply 
take the hint that he must pay for himself. 

Anthony had laid out money to welcome the farmer, 
and was shy and fidgetty as a girl who anticipates the 
visit of a promising youth, over his fat goose for next 
day's dinner, and his shrimps for this day's tea, and 
his red slice of strong cheese, called of Cheshire by 
the reckless butterman, for supper. 
92 



RHODA FLEMING 

He knew that both Dahlia and Rhoda must have told chapter 
the farmer that he was not high up in Boyne's Bank, ^^^^^ j^ 
and it fretted him to think that the mysterious respect not visible 
entertained for his wealth by the farmer, which delighted 
him with a novel emotion, might be dashed by what 
the farmer would behold. 

During his last visit to the farm, Anthony had talked 
of the Funds more suggestively than usual. He had 
alluded to his own dealings in them, and to what he 
would do and would not do under certain contingencies; 
thus shadowing out, dimly luminous and immense, 
what he could do, if his sagacity prompted the ad- 
venture. The farmer had listened through the buzzing 
of his uncertain grief, only sighing for answer. *If 
ever you come up to London, brother William John,* 
said Anthony, *you mind you go about arm-in-arm 
with me, or you '11 be judging by appearances, and 
says you, " Lor', what a thousander fellow this is ! " 
and " What a millioner fellow that is ! " You '11 be 
giving your millions and your thousands to the wrong 
people, when they haven't got a penny. All London '11 
be topsy-turvy to you, unless you 've got a guide, and 
he '11 show you a shabby-coated, head-in-the-gutter old 
man '11 buy up the lot. Everybody that doesn't know 
him says — look at him\ but they that knows him — 
hats off, I can tell you. And talk about lords ! We 
don't mind their coming into the city, but they know 
the scent of cash. I 've had a lord take off his hat to 
me. It 's a fact, I have.' 

In spite of the caution Anthony had impressed upon 
his country relative, that he should not judge by 
appearances, he was nevertheless under an appre- 
hension that the farmer's opinion of him, and the 

93 




RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 
X 

Dahlia is 
not Visible 



luxurious, almost voluptuous, enjoyment he had of 
it, were in peril. When he had purchased the well- 
probed fat goose, the shrimps, and the cheese, he was 
only half-satisfied. His ideas shot boldly at a bottle 
of wine, and he employed a summer-lighted evening 
in going a round of wine-merchants' placards, and 
looking out for the cheapest bottle he could buy. 
And he would have bought one — he had sealing-wax 
of his own and could have stamped it with the office- 
stamp of Boyne's Bank for that matter, to make it as 
dignified and costly as the vaunted red seals and green 
seals of the placards — he would have bought one, had 
he not, by one of his lucky mental illuminations, re- 
collected that it was within his power to procure an 
order to taste wine at the Docks, where you may get 
as much wine as you like out of big sixpenny glasses, 
and try cask after cask, walking down gas-lit paths 
between the huge bellies of wine which groan to be 
tapped and tried, that men may know them. The idea 
of paying two shillings and sixpence for one miserable 
bottle vanished at the richly-coloured prospect. * That '11 
show him something of what London is,' thought 
Anthony ; and a companion thought told him in addi- 
tion that the farmer, with a skinful of wine, would 
emerge into the open-air imagining no small things 
of the man who could gain admittance into those 
marvellous caverns. *By George! it's like a boy's 
story-book,' cried Anthony, in his soul, and he chuckled 
over the vision of the farmer's amazement — acted it 
with his arms extended, and his hat unseated, and 
plunged into wheezy fits of laughter. 

He met his guests at the station. Mr. Fleming was 
soberly attired in what, to Anthony's London eye, was 
94 



RHODA FLEMING 

a curiosity costume ; but the broad brim of the hat, chapter 
the square cut of the brown coat, and the leggings, Dahnais 
struck him as being very respectable, and worthy of not visible 
a presentation at any Bank in London. 

* You stick to a leather purse, brother William John?' 
he inquired, with an artistic sentiment for things in 
keeping. 

* I do,' said the farmer, feeling seriously at the button 
over it. 

* All right ; I sha'n't ask ye to show it in the street,' 
Anthony rejoined, and smote Rhoda's hand as it hung: 

* Glad to see your old uncle — are ye ? ' 

Rhoda replied quietly that she was, but had come 
with the principal object of seeing her sister. 

* There ! ' cried Anthony, * you never get a compli- 
ment out of this gal. She gives ye the nut, and you 're 
to crack it, and there may be, or there mayn't be, a 
kernel inside — she don't care.' 

^ But there ain't much in it!' the farmer ejaculated, 
withdrawing his fingers from the button they had been 
teasing for security since Anthony's question about 
the purse. 

* Not much — eh ! brother William John ? ' Anthony 
threw up a puzzled look. * Not much baggage — I see 
that ! ' he exclaimed ; * and. Lord be thanked ! no 
trunks. Aha, my dear ' — he turned to Rhoda — * you 
remember your lesson, do ye ? Now, mark me — I '11 re- 
member you for it. Do you know, my dear,' he said to 
Rhoda confidentially, * that sixpenn'orth of chaff which 
I made the cabman pay for — there was the cream of 
it ! — that was better than Peruvian bark to my con- 
stitution. It was as good to me as a sniff of sea-breeze 
and no excursion expenses. I'd like another, just to 

95 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

X 

Dahlia is 

not Visible 



feel young again, when I 'd have backed myself to beat 
— cabmen ? Ah ! I 've stood up, when I was a young 
'un, and shut up a Cheap Jack at a fair. Circulation 's 
the soul o' chaif. That 's why I don't mind tackling 
cabmen — they sit all day, and all they 've got to say 
is " rat-tat," and they Ve done. But I let the boys 
roar. I know what I was when a boy myself. I Ve 
got devil in me — never you fear — but it's all on the 
side of the law. Now, let 's off, for the gentlemen are 
starin' at you, which won't hurt ye, ye know, but 
makes me jealous.' 

Before the party moved away from the platform, a 
sharp tussle took place between Anthony and the 
farmer as to the porterage of the bulky bag; but it 
being only half-earnest, the farmer did not put out his 
strength, and Anthony had his way. 

* I rather astonished you, brother William John,' he 
said, when they were in the street. 

The farmer admitted that he was stronger than he 
looked. 

* Don't you judge by appearances, that 's all,' Anthony 
remarked, setting down the bag to lay his finger on 
one side of his nose for impressiveness. 

* Now, there we leave London Bridge to the right, 
and we shoulder away to the left, and quiet parts.' 
He seized the bag anew. 'Just listen. That's the 
roaring of cataracts of gold you hear, brother William 
John. It 's a good notion, ain't it ? Hark ! — I got that 
notion from one of your penny papers. You can buy 
any amount for a penny, now-a-days — poetry up in a 
corner, stories, tales o' temptation — one fellow cut his 
lucky with his master's cash, dashed away to Australia, 
made millions, fit to be a lord, and there he was ! 

96 



RHODA FLEMING 

liable to the law! and everybody bowing their hats chapter 
and their heads off to him, and his knees knocking ^ 

o Dahlia is 

at the sight of a policeman — a man of a red com- not visible 
plexion, full habit of body, enjoyed his dinner and his 
wine, and on account of his turning white so often, 
they called him — " Sealing-wax and Parchment " was 
one name ; " Carrots and turnips *' was another ; 
" Blumonge and something," and so on. Fancy his 
having to pay half his income in pensions to chaps 
who could have had him out of his town or country 
mansion and popped into gaol in a jiffy. And found 
out at last! Them tales set you thinking. Once I 
was an idle young scaramouch. But you can buy every 
idea that 's useful to you for a penny. I tried the half- 
penny journals. Cheapness ain't always profitable. 
The moral is. Make your money, and you may buy 
all the rest.' 

Discoursing thus by the way, and resisting the 
farmer's occasional efforts to relieve him of the bag, 
with the observation that appearances were deceiving, 
and that he intended, please his Maker, to live and 
turn over a little more interest yet, Anthony brought 
them to Mrs. Wicklow's house. Mrs. Wicklow promised 
to put them into the track of the omnibuses running 
toward Dahlia's abode in the South-west, and Mary 
Ann Wicklow, who had a burning desire in her bosom 
to behold even the outside shell of her friend's new 
grandeur, undertook very disinterestedly to accompany 
them. Anthony's strict injunction held them due at 
a lamp-post outside Boyne's Bank, at half-past three 
o'clock in the afternoon. 

* My love to Dahly,' he said. * She was always a 
head and shoulders over my size. Tell her, when she 
9— G 97 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER rolls by in her carriage, not to mind me. I got my 

Dahlia is ^^^ notions of value. And if that Mr. Ayrton of 

not Visible hers '11 bank at Boyne's, I'll behave to him like a 

customer. This here 's the girl for my money.' He 

touched Rhoda's arm, and so disappeared. 

The farmer chided her for her cold manner to her 
uncle, murmuring aside to her : * You heard what he 
said.' Rhoda was frozen with her heart's expectation, 
and insensible to hints or reproof. The people who 
entered the omnibus seemed to her stale phantoms 
bearing a likeness to every one she had known, save 
to her beloved whom she was about to meet, after 
long separation. 

She marvelled pityingly at the sort of madness which 
kept the streets so lively for no reasonable purpose. 
When she was on her feet again, she felt for the first 
time, that she was nearing the sister for whom she 
hungered, and the sensation beset her that she had 
landed in a foreign country. Mary Ann Wicklow 
chattered all the while to the general ear. It was her 
pride to be the discoverer of Dahlia's terrace. 

*Not for worlds would she enter the house,' she said, 
in a general tone ; she knowing better than to present 
herself where downright entreaty did not invite her. 

Rhoda left her to count the numbers along the 
terrace-walk, and stood out in the road that her heart 
might select Dahlia's habitation from the other hueless 
residences. She fixed upon one, but she was wrong, 
and her heart sank. The fair Mary Ann fought her 
and beat her by means of a careful reckoning, as she 
remarked : — 

* I keep my eyes open ; Number 15 is the corner 
house, the bow-window, to a certainty.' 
98 



RHODA FLEMING 

Gardens were in front of the houses ; or, to speak chapter 



Dahlia is 



more correctly, strips of garden-walks. A cab was 
drawn up close by the shrub-covered iron gate leading notvisiwe 
up to No. 15. Mary Ann hurried them on, declaring 
that they might be too late even now at a couple of 
dozen paces distant, seeing that London cabs, crawlers 
as they usually were, could, when required, and paid 
for it, do their business like lightning. Her observa- 
tion was illustrated the moment after they had left 
her in the rear ; for a gentleman suddenly sprang 
across the pavement, jumped into a cab, and was 
whirled away, with as much apparent magic to pro- 
vincial eyes, as if a pantomimic trick had been per- 
formed. Rhoda pressed forward a step in advance of 
her father. 

* It may have been her husband,' she thought, and 
trembled. The curtains up in the drawing-room were 
moved as by a hand ; but where was Dahlia's face ? 
Dahlia knew that they were coming, and she was not 
on the look-out for them ! — a strange conflict of facts, 
over which Rhoda knitted her black brows, so that she 
looked menacing to the maid opening the door, whose 
* Oh, if you please. Miss,' came in contact with * My 

sister — Mrs. , she expects me. I mean, Mrs. * 

but no other name than * Dahlia ' would fit itself to 
Rhoda's mouth. 

* Ayrton,' said the maid, and recommenced, * Oh, if 
you please. Miss, and you are the young lady, Mrs. 
Ayrton is very sorry, and have left word, would you 
call again to-morrow, as she have made a pressing 
appointment, and was sure you would excuse her, but 
her husband was very anxious for her to go, and could 
not put it off, and was very sorry, but would you call 

99 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 
X 

Dahlia is 
not Visible 



again to-morrow at twelve o'clock? and punctually 
she would be here/ 

The maid smiled as one who had fairly accomplished 
the recital of her lesson. Rhoda was stunned. 

* Is Mrs. Ayrton at home ? — Not at home ? ' she said. 

* No : don't ye hear ? ' quoth the farmer sternly. 

' She had my letter — do you know ? ' Rhoda appealed 
to the maid. 

* Oh, yes, Miss. A letter from the country.' 

* This morning ? ' 

* Yes, Miss ; this morning.* 

* And she has gone out ? What time did she go out ? 
When will she be in ? * 

Her father plucked at her dress. * Best not go making 
the young woman repeat herself. She says, nobody 's 
at home to ask us in. There's no more, then, to 
trouble her for.' 

< At twelve o'clock to-morrow ? ' Rhoda faltered. 

* Would you, if you please, call again at twelve 
o'clock to-morrow, and punctually she would be here,' 
said the maid. 

The farmer hung his head and turned. Rhoda 
followed him from the garden. She was immediately 
plied with queries and interjections of wonderment by 
Miss Wicklow, and it was not until she said: *You saw 
him go out, didn't you ? — into the cab ? ' that Rhoda 
awakened to a meaning in her gabble. 

Was it Dahlia's husband whom they had seen ? And 
if so, why was Dahlia away from her husband ? She 
questioned in her heart, but not for an answer, for she 
allowed no suspicions to live. The farmer led on with 
his plodding country step, burdened shoulders, and 
ruddy-jo wled, serious face, not speaking to Rhoda, 
100 



RHODA FLEMING 



who had no desire to hear a word from him, and 
let him be. Mary Ann steered him and called from 
behind the turnings he was to take, while she specu- 
lated aloud to Rhoda upon the nature of the business 
that had torn Dahlia from the house so inopportunely. 
At last she announced that she knew what it was, 
but Rhoda failed to express curiosity. Mary Ann was 
driven to whisper something about strange things in 
the way of purchases. At that moment the farmer 
threw up his umbrella, shouting for a cab, and Rhoda 
ran up to him : 

* Oh, father, why do we want to ride ? ' 

* Yes, I tell ye ! ' said the farmer, chafing against his 
coat-collar. 

* It is an expense, when we can walk, father.' 

* What do I care for th' expense ? I shall ride.' He 
roared again for a cab, and one came that took them 
in; after which, the farmer, not being spoken to, be- 
came gravely placid as before. They were put down 
at Boyne's Bank. Anthony was on the look-out, and 
signalled them to stand away some paces from the 
door. They were kept about a quarter of an hour 
waiting between two tides of wayfarers, which hustled 
them one way and another, when out, at last, came 
the old, broad, bent figure, with little finicking steps, 
and hurried past them head foremost, his arms nar- 
rowed across a bulgy breast. He stopped to make 
sure that they were following, beckoned with his 
chin, and proceeded at a mighty rate. Marvellous 
was his rounding of corners, his threading of ob- 
structions, his skilful diplomacy with passengers. 
Presently they lost sight of him, and stood bewil- 
dered; but while they were deliberating they heard 

101 



CHAPTER 

X 

Dahlia ig 

not Vigible 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

X 

Dahlia is 

not Visible 



his voice. He was above them, having issued from two 
swinging bright doors ; and he laughed and nodded, as 
he ran down the steps, and made signs, by which they 
were to understand that he was relieved of a weight. 

'I've done that twenty year of my life, brother 
William John,' he said. ' Eh ? Perhaps you didn't 
guess I was worth some thousands when I got away 
from you just now? Let any chap try to stop me! 
They may just as well try to stop a railway train. 
Steam 's up, and I 'm off.' 

He laughed and wiped his forehead. Slightly vexed 
at the small amount of discoverable astonishment on 
the farmer's face, he continued : 

*You don't think much of it. Why, there ain't 
another man but myself Boyne's Bank would trust. 
They 've trusted me thirty year : — why shouldn't they 
go on trusting me another thirty year ? A good 
character, brother William John, goes on compound- 
interesting, just like good coin. Didn't you feel a 
sort of heat as I brushed by you — eh? That was a 
matter of one — two — three — four'; Anthony watched 
the farmer as his voice swelled up on the heightening 
numbers : * five — six — six thousand pounds, brother 
William John. People must think something of a 
man to trust him with that sum pretty near every 
day of their lives, Sundays excepted — eh ? don't you 
think so ? ' 

He dwelt upon the immense confidence reposed in 
him, and the terrible temptation it would be to some 
men, and how they ought to thank their stars that 
they were never thrown in the way of such a tempta- 
tion, of which he really thought nothing at all — 
nothing ! until the farmer's countenance was lightened 
102 



RHODA FLEMING 

of its air of oppression, for a puzzle was dissolved in chapter 
his brain. It was now manifest to him that Anthony Da^na is 
was trusted in this extraordinary manner because the not visible 
heads and managers of Boyne's Bank knew the old 
man to be possessed of a certain very respectable 
sum: in all probability they held it in their coffers 
for safety and credited him with the amount. Nay, 
more; it was fair to imagine that the guileless old 
fellow, who conceived himself to be so deep, had let 
them get it all into their hands without any suspicion 
of their prominent object in doing so. 

Mr. Fleming said, * Ah, yes, surely.' 

He almost looked shrewd as he smiled over 
Anthony's hat. The healthy exercise of his wits re- 
lieved his apprehensive paternal heart ; and when he 
mentioned that Dahlia had not been at home when 
he called, he at the same time sounded his hearer for 
excuses to be raised on her behalf, himself clumsily 
suggesting one or two, as to show that he was willing 
to swallow a very little for comfort. 

* Oh, of course!' said Anthony jeeringly. 'Out? 
If you catch her in, these next three or four days, 
you '11 be lucky. Ah, brother William John ! ' 

The farmer, half-frightened by Anthony's dolorous 
shake of his head, exclaimed; * What's the matter, 
man?' 

* How proud I should be if only you was in a way 
to bank at Boyne's ! ' 

' Ah ! ' went the farmer in his turn, and he plunged 
his chin deep in his neckerchief. 

* Perhaps some of your family will, some day, brother 
William John.' 

* Happen, some of my family do, brother Anthony!' 

103 



CHAPTER 
X 

Dahlia is 
not Visible 



RHODA FLEMING 

^Will is what I said, brother William John; if good 
gals, and civil, and marry decently — eh ? ' and he faced 
about to Rhoda, who was walking with Miss Wicklow. 
' What does she look so down about, my dear ? Never 
be down. I don't mind you telling your young man, 
whoever he is ; and I 'd like him to be a strapping 
young six-footer I Ve got in my eye, who farms. What 
does he farm with to make farming answer now-a-days? 
Why, he farms with brains. You '11 find that in my 
last week's Journal, brother William John, and thinks 
I, as I conned it — the farmer ought to read that ! You 
may tell any young man you like, my dear, that your 
old uncle 's fond of ye.' 

On their arrival home, Mrs. Wicklow met them with 
a letter in her hand. It was for Rhoda from Dahlia, 
saying that Dahlia was grieved to the heart to have 
missed her dear father and her darling sister. But 
her husband had insisted upon her going out to make 
particular purchases, and do a dozen things; and he 
was extremely sorry to have been obliged to take her 
away, but she hoped to see her dear sister and her 
father very, very soon. She wished she were her own 
mistress that she might run to them, but men when 
they are husbands require so much waiting on that 
she could never call five minutes her own. She would 
entreat them to call to-morrow, only she would then 
be moving to her new lodgings. ' But, oh ! my dear, 
my blessed Rhoda ! ' the letter concluded, * do keep 
fast in your heart that I do love you so, and pray that 
we may meet soon, as I pray it every night and all day 
long. Beg father to stop till we meet. Things will 
soon be arranged. They must. Oh ! oh, my Rhoda, 
love ! how handsome you have grown. It is very 
104 



RHODA FLEMING 

well to be fair for a time, but the brunettes have the 
happiest lot. They last, and when we blonde ones cry 
or grow thin, oh ! what objects we become ! * 

There were some final affectionate words, but no 
further explanations. 

The wrinkles again settled on the farmer's mild 
uncomplaining forehead. 

Rhoda said : ' Let us wait, father.' 

When alone, she locked the letter against her heart, 
as to suck the secret meaning out of it. Thinking 
over it was useless ; except for this one thought : how 
did her sister know she had grown very handsome ? 
Perhaps the housemaid had prattled. 



CHAPTER 
X 

Dahlia is 
not Visible 



CHAPTER XI 

An Indicative Duet in a Minor Key 

Dahlia, the perplexity to her sister's heart, lay stretched 
at full length upon the sofa of a pleasantly furnished 
London drawing-room, sobbing to herself, with her 
handkerchief across her eyes. She had cried passion 
out, and sobbed now for comfort. 

She lay in her rich silken dress like the wreck of 
a joyful creature, while the large red Winter sun 
rounded to evening, and threw deep-coloured beams 
against the wall above her head. They touched the 
nut-brown hair to vivid threads of fire: but she lay 
faceless. Utter languor and the dread of looking at 
her eyelids in the glass kept her prostrate. 

So, the darkness closed her about ; the sickly gas- 
lamps of the street showing her as a shrouded body. 

105 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER A girl came in to spread the cloth for dinner, and 
An Indicative ^^^^ through her duties with the stolidity of the 
Duet in a London lodging-house maidservant, poking a clogged 
ey ^^^ ^^ perdition, and repressing a songful spirit. 

Dahlia knew well what was being done ; she would 
have given much to save her nostrils from the smell 
of dinner ; it was a great immediate evil to her 
sickened senses; but she had no energy to call out, 
nor will of any kind. The odours floated to her, and 
passively she combated them. 

At first she was nearly vanquished ; the meat smelt 
so acrid, the potatoes so sour; each afflicting veget- 
able asserted itself peculiarly ; and the bread, the salt 
even, on the wings of her morbid fancy, came steam- 
ing about her, subtle, penetrating, thick, and hateful, 
like the pressure of a cloud out of which disease is shot. 

Such it seemed to her, till she could have shrieked ; 
but only a few fresh tears started down her cheeks, 
and she lay enduring it. 

Dead silence and stillness hung over the dinner- 
service, when the outer door below was opened, and 
a light foot sprang up the stairs. 

There entered a young gentleman in evening dress, 
with a loose black wrapper drooping from his shoul- 
ders. He looked on the table, and then glancing at 
the sofa, said : 

* Oh, there she is ! ' and went to the window and 
whistled. 

After a minute of great patience, he turned his face 
back to the room again, and commenced tapping his 
foot on the carpet. 

* Well ? * he said, finding these indications of exem- 
plary self-command unheeded. His voice was equally 

106 



RHODA FLEMING 

powerless to provoke a sign of animation. He now chapter 
displaced his hat, and said, * Dahlia ! ' ^^ ind/cati 

She did not move. Duet in a 

* I am here to very little purpose, then,' he remarked. ^^*°°^^«y 
A fluttering fall of her bosom was perceptible. 
'For heaven's sake, take away that handkerchief, 
my good child! Why have you let your dinner get 
cold? Here,' he lifted a cover; * here's roast-beef. 
You like it — why don't you eat it? That's only a 
small piece of the general inconsistency, I know. And 
why haven't they put champagne on the table for 
you ? You lose your spirits without it. If you took 
it when these moody fits came on — but there 's no 
advising a woman to do anything for her own good. 
Dahlia, will you do me the favour to speak two or 
three words with me before I go ? I would have dined 
here, but I have a man to meet me at the Club. Of 
what mortal service is it shamming the insensible? 
You 've produced the required effect, I am as uncom- 
fortable as I need be. Absolutely ! 

*Well,' seeing that words were of no avail, he 
summed up expostulation and reproach in this sigh 
of resigned philosophy : * I am going. Let me see — I 
have my Temple keys ? — yes ! I am afraid that even 
when you are inclined to be gracious and look at me, 
I shall not be visible to you for some days. I start 
for Lord Elling's to-morrow morning at five. I meet 
my father there by appointment. I 'm afraid we shall 
have to stay over Christmas. Good-bye.' He paused. 
* Good-bye, my dear.' 

Two or three steps nearer the door, he said, ' By the 
way, do you want anything ? Money ? — do you happen 
to want any money ? I will send a blank cheque to- 

107 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER morrow. I have sufficient for both of us. I shall tell 

XI 

An Indicative ^^® landlady to order your Christmas dinner. How 
Duet in a about wine ? There is champagne, I know, and bottled 
ey ^j^^ Sherry? I '11 drop a letter to my wine-merchant; 
I think the sherry 's running dry.' 

Her sense of hearing was now afflicted in as gross 
a manner as had been her sense of smell. She could 
not have spoken, though her vitality had pressed for 
speech. It would have astonished him to hear that 
his solicitude concerning provender for her during his 
absence was not esteemed a kindness ; for surely it is 
a kindly thing to think of it ; and for whom but for 
one for whom he cared would he be counting the 
bottles to be left at her disposal, insomuch that the 
paucity of the bottles of sherry in the establishment 
distressed his mental faculties ? 

* Well, good-bye,' he said finally. The door closed. 
Had Dahlia's misery been in any degree simulated, 

her eyes now, as well as her ears, would have taken 
positive assurance of his departure. But with the 
removal of her handkerchief, the loathsome sight of 
the dinner-table would have saluted her, and it had 
already caused her suffering enough. She chose to 
remain as she was, saying to herself, * I am dead ' ; 
and softly revelling in that corpse-like sentiment. She 
scarcely knew that the door had opened again. ^ 

'Dahlia!' 

She heard her name pronounced, and more entreat- 
ingly, and closer to her. 

* Dahlia, my poor girl ! ' Her hand was pressed. It 
gave her no shudders. 

' I am dead,' she mentally repeated, for the touch did 
not run up to her heart and stir it. 
108 



RHODA FLEMING 

'Dahlia, do be reasonable! I can't leave you like chapter 
this. We shall be separated for some time. And ^' 

. , . - ^ An Indicative 

what a miserable fire you ve got here ! You have Duet in a 
agreed with me that we are acting for the best. It 's *^^"°^ ^^^ 
very hard on me ! I try what I can to make you comf 
— happy ; and really, to see you leaving your dinner 
to get cold ! Your hands are like ice. The meat won't 
be eatable. You know I 'm not my own master. Come, 
Dahly, my darling ! ' 

He gently put his hand to her chin, and then drew 
away the handkerchief. 

Dahlia moaned at the exposure of her tear-stained 
face, she turned it languidly to the wall. 

* Are you ill, my dear ? ' he asked. 

Men are so considerately practical! He begged 
urgently to be allowed to send for a doctor. 

But women, when they choose to be unhappy, will 
not accept of practical consolations ! She moaned 
a refusal to see the doctor. 

Then what can I do for her ? he naturally thought, 
and he naturally uttered it. 

'Say good-bye to me,' he whispered. 'And my 
pretty one will write to me. I shall reply so punctu- 
ally ! I don't like to leave her at Christmas ; and 
she will give me a line of Italian, and a little French 
— mind her accents, though ! — and she needn't attempt 
any of the nasty German — kshrra-kouzzra-kratz I — 
which her pretty lips can't do, and won't do ; but only 
French and Italian. Why, she learnt to speak Italian ! 
'' La dolcezza ancor dentro me suona" Don't you re- 
member, and made such fun of it at first? ^^ Amo 
zoo " ; " no amo me ? " my sweet ! ' 

This was a specimen of the baby-lover talk, which is 

109 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER charming in its season, and may be pleasantly cajoling 

An Indicative *^ ^ loving woman at all times, save when she is in 

Duet in a Dahlia's condition. It will serve even then, or she 

Minor Key ^.jj ^^^^ -^ forgivingly, as not the food she for a 

moment requires; but it must be purely simple in 
its utterance, otherwise she detects the poor chica- 
nery, and resents the meanness of it. She resents 
it with unutterable sickness of soul, for it is the 
language of what were to her the holiest hours of 
her existence, which is thus hypocritically used to 
blind and rock her in a cradle of deception. If 
corrupt, she may be brought to answer to it all the 
same, and she will do her part of the play, and 
babble words, and fret, and pout deliciously; and 
the old days will seem to be revived, when both 
know {hey are dead; and she will thereby gain any 
advantage she is seeking. 

But Dahlia's sorrow was deep : her heart was sound. 
She did not even perceive the opportunity offered to 
her for a wily performance. She felt the hollowness 
of his speech, and no more ; and she said, * Good-bye, 
Edward.' 

He had been on one knee. Springing cheerfully to 
his feet, * Good-bye, darling,' he said. * But I must see 
her sit to table first. Such a wretched dinner for her ! ' 
and he mumbled, ' By Jove, I suppose I sha'n't get any 
at all myself! ' His watch confirmed it to him that 
any dinner which had been provided for him at the 
Club would be spoilt. 

* Never mind,' he said aloud, and examined the roast- 
beef ruefully, thinking that, doubtless, it being more 
than an hour behind the appointed dinner-time at the 
Club, his guest must now be gone. 
110 



RHODA FLEMING 

For a minute or so he gazed at the mournful spec- chapter 
tacle. The potatoes looked as if they had committed . , ^' 

—. An Indicative 

suicide in their own steam. There were mashed Duet in a 
turnips, with a glazed surface, like the bright bottom ^*°®*''^*y 
of a tin pan. One block of bread was by the lonely 
plate. Neither hot nor cold, the whole aspect of 
the dinner-table resisted and repelled the gaze, and 
made no pretensions to allure it. 

The thought of partaking of this repast endowed 
him with a critical appreciation of its character, and 
a gush of charitable emotion for the poor girl who had 
such miserable dishes awaiting her, arrested the philo- 
sophic reproof which he could have administered to 
one that knew so little how a dinner of any sort 
should be treated. He strode to the windows, pulled 
down the blind he had previously raised, rang the bell, 
and said : 

* Dahlia, there — I'm going to dine with you, my 
love. I Ve rung the bell for more candles. The room 
shivers. That girl will see you, if you don't take care. 
Where is the key of the cupboard? We must have 
some wine out. The champagne, at all events, won't 
be flat.' 

He commenced humming the song of complacent 
resignation. Dahlia was still inanimate, but as the 
door was about to open, she rose quickly and sat in 
a tremble on the sofa, concealing her face. 

An order was given for additional candles, coals, 
and wood. When the maid had disappeared, Dahlia 
got on her feet, and steadied herself by the wall, 
tottering away to her chamber. 

*Ah, poor thing!' ejaculated the young man, not 
without an idea that the demonstration was unneces- 

m 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER sary. For what is decidedly disagreeable is, in a 
A.n Indicative Y^^^S maii's Calculation concerning women, not 

Duet in a ncccssary at all — quite the reverse. Are not women 
ey ^j^^ flowers which decorate sublunary life ? It is 
really irritating to discover them to be pieces of 
machinery, that for want of proper oiling, creak, stick, 
threaten convulsions, and are tragic and stir us the 
wrong way. However, champagne does them good: 
an admirable wine — a sure specific for the sex ! 

He searched around for the keys to get at a bottle 
and uncork it forthwith. The keys were on the 
mantelpiece : a bad comment on Dahlia's house- 
keeping qualities ; but in the hurry of action let it 
pass. He welcomed the candles gladly, and soon had 
all the cupboards in the room royally open. 

Bustle is instinctively adopted by the human race 
as the substitute of comfort. He called for more 
lights, more plates, more knives and forks. He sent 
for ice : the maid observed that it was not to be had 
save at a distant street: *Jump into a cab — cham- 
pagne *s nothing without ice, even in Winter,' he said, 
and rang for her as she was leaving the house, to 
name a famous fishmonger who was sure to supply 
the ice. 

The establishment soon understood that Mr. Ayrton 
intended dining within those walls. Fresh potatoes 
were put on to boil. The landlady came up herself 
to arouse the fire. The maid was for a quarter of an 
hour hovering between the order to get ice and the 
execution of immediate commands. One was that she 
should take a glass of champagne to Mrs. Ayrton in 
her room. He drank off one himself. Mrs. Ayrton's 
glass being brought back untouched, he drank that 
112 



RHODA FLEMING 

off likewise, and as he became more exhilarated, was chapter 
more considerate for her, to such a degree, that when » , ^.' . 

' " ' An Indicative 

she appeared he seized her hands and only jestingly Duet in a 
scolded her for her contempt of sound medicine, ^^<*'^<^y 
declaring, in spite of her protestations, that she was 
looking lovely, and so they sat down to their dinner, 
she with an anguished glance at the looking-glass as 
she sank in her chair. 

* It 's not bad, after all,' said he, drenching his taste- 
less mouthful of half-cold meat with champagne. 
*The truth is, that Clubs spoil us. This is Spartan 
fare. Come, drink with me, my dearest. One sip.' 

She was coaxed by degrees to empty a glass. She 
had a gentle heart, and could not hold out long against 
a visible lively kindliness. It pleased him that she 
should bow to him over fresh bubbles ; and they went 
formally through the ceremony, and she smiled. He 
joked and laughed and talked, and she eyed him a 
faint sweetness. He perceived now that she required 
nothing more than the restoration of her personal 
pride, and setting bright eyes on her, hazarded a bold 
compliment. 

Dahlia drooped like a yacht with idle sails struck 
by a sudden blast, that dips them in the salt ; but she 
raised her face with the full bloom of a blush : and 
all was plain sailing afterward. 

* Has my darling seen her sister ? ' he asked softly. 
Dahlia answered : * No,' in the same tone. 

Both looked away. 

* She won't leave town without seeing you ? ' 

< I hope — I don't know. She — she has called at our 
last lodgings twice.' 

* Alone?' 

9— H 113 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER ' Yes : I think so.' 

XI 

An Indicative Dahlia kept her head down, replying; and his 
Duet in a observation of her wavered uneasily. 
®y ( Why not write to her, then ? ' 

* She will bring father.' 

The sob thickened in her throat ; but, alas for him 
who had at first, while she was on the sofa, affected 
to try all measures to revive her, that I must declare 
him to know well how certain was his mastery over 
her, when his manner was thoroughly kind. He had 
not much fear of her relapsing at present. 

* You can't see your father ? ' 
*No.' 

* But, do. It 's best.' 

* I can't.' 
'Why not?' 

*Not ' she hesitated, and clasped her hands in 

her lap. 

* Yes, yes ; I know,' said he ; ' but still ! You could 
surely see him. You rouse suspicions that need not 
exist. Try another glass, my dear.' 

*No more.' 

'Well; as I was saying, you force him to think — 
and there is no necessity for it. He may be as hard 
on this point as you say ; but now and then a little 
innocent deception may be practised. We only require 
to gain time. You place me in a very hard position. 
I have a father too. He has his own idea of things. 
He 's a proud man, as I 've told you ; tremendously 
ambitious, and he wants to push me, not only at the 
bar, but in the money market matrimonial. All these 
notions I have to contend against. Things can't be 
done at once. If I give him a shock — well, we '11 drop 
114 



RHODA FLEMING 

any consideration of the consequences. Write to your chapter 
sister to tell her to bring your father. If they make ^^ j^^' 
particular inquiries — very unlikely I think — but, if they Duet in & 
do, put them at their ease/ Minor Key 

She sighed. 

* Why was my poor darling so upset, when I came 
in ? ' said he. 

There was a difficulty in her speaking. He waited 
with much patient twiddling of bread crumbs ; and at 
last she said : 

*My sister called twice at my — our old lodgings. 
The second time, she burst into tears. The girl told 
me so.' 

* But women cry so often, and for almost anything, 
Dahlia.' 

*Rhoda cries with her hands closed hard, and her 
eyelids too.' 

* Well, that may be her way.' 

*I have only seen her cry once, and that was when 
mother was dying, and asked her to fetch a rose from 
the garden. I met her on the stairs. She was like 
wood. She hates crying. She loves me so.' 

The sympathetic tears rolled down Dahlia's cheeks. 

* So, you quite refuse to see your father ? ' he asked. 

* Not yet!' 

*Not yet,' he repeated. 

At the touch of scorn in his voice, she exclaimed : 

* Oh, Edward ! not yet, I cannot. I know I am weak. 
I can't meet him now. If my Rhoda had come alone, 

as I hoped ! but he is with her. Don't blame me, 

Edward, I can't explain. I only know that I really 
have not the power to see him.' 

Edward nodded. * The sentiment some women put 

115 



Minor Key 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER into things is inexplicable,' he said. * Your sister and 
An induicative ^^^^^^ will return home. They will have formed their 
Duet in a idcas. You know how unjust they will be. Since, 
however, the taste is for being a victim — eh ? ' 

London lodging-house rooms in Winter when the 
blinds are down, and a cheerless fire is in the grate, 
or when blinds are up and street-lamps salute the 
inhabitants with uncordial rays, are not entertaining 
places of residence for restless spirits. Edward paced 
about the room. He lit a cigar and puffed at it fret- 
fully. 

*Will you come and try one of the theatres for an 
hour ? ' he asked. 

She rose submissively, afraid to say that she thought 
she should look ill in the staring lights ; but he, 
with great quickness of perception, rendered her task 
easier by naming the dress she was to wear, the jewels, 
and the colour of the opera-cloak. Thus prompted. 
Dahlia went to her chamber, and passively attired 
herself, thankful to have been spared the pathetic 
troubles of a selection of garments from her wardrobe. 
When she came forth, Edward thought her marvellously 
beautiful. 

Pity that she had no strength of character whatever, 
nor any pointed liveliness of mind to match and wrestle 
with his own, and cheer the domestic hearth ! But she 
was certainly beautiful. Edward kissed her hand in 
commendation. Though it was practically annoying 
that she should be sad, the hue and spirit of sadness 
came home to her aspect. Sorrow visited her tenderly 
falling eyelids like a sister. 



116 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER XII 

At the Theatre 

Edward's engagement at his Club had been with his 
unfortunate cousin Algernon ; who wanted not only 
a dinner but * hvQ pounds or so ' (the hazy margin 
which may extend inimitably, or miserably contract, 
at the lender's pleasure, and the necessity for which 
shows the borrower to be dancing on Fortune's tight- 
rope above the old abyss). 

* Over claret,' was to have been the time for the asking; 
and Algernon waited dinnerless until the healthy-going 
minutes distended and swelled monstrous and horrible 
as viper-bitten bodies, and the venerable Signior, Time, 
became of unhealthy hue. For this was the first dinner 
which, during the whole course of the young man's 
career, had ever been failing to him. Reflect upon 
the mournful gap ! He could scarcely believe in his 
ill-luck. He suggested it to himself with an inane 
grin, as one of the far-away freaks of circumstances 
that had struck him — and was it not comical ? 

He waited from the hour of six till the hour of seven. 
He compared clocks in the hall and the room. He 
changed the posture of his legs fifty times. For a 
while he wrestled right gallantly with the apparent 
menace of the Fates that he was to get no dinner at 
all that day; it seemed incredibly derisive, for, as I 
must repeat, it had never happened to him by any 
accident before. *You are born — you dine.' Such 
appeared to him to be the positive regulation of 

117 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER affairs, and a most proper one: — of the matters of 
AMhe course following the birth of a young being. 
Theatre By what frightful mischance, then, does he miss his 
dinner? By placing the smallest confidence in the 
gentlemanly feeling of another man ! Algernon de- 
duced this reply accurately from his own experience, 
and whether it can be said by other * undined ' mortals, 
does not matter in the least. But we have nothing to 
do with the constitutionally luckless : the calamitous 
history of a simple empty stomach is enough. Here 
the tragedy is palpable. Indeed, too sadly so, and I 
dare apply but a flash of the microscope to the 
raging dilemmas of this animalcule. Five and twenty 
minutes had signalled their departure from the hour 
of seven, when Algernon pronounced his final verdict 
upon Edward's conduct by leaving the Club. He 
returned to it a quarter of an hour later, and lingered 
on in desperate mood till eight. 

He had neither watch in his pocket, nor ring on his 
finger, nor disposable stud in his shirt. The sum of 
twenty-one pence was in his possession, and, I ask 
you, as he asked himself, how is a gentleman to 
dine upon that? He laughed at the notion. The 
irony of Providence sent him by a cook's shop, where 
the mingled steam of meats and puddings rushed out 
upon the wayfarer like ambushed bandits, and seized 
him and dragged him in, or sent him qualmish and 
humbled on his way. 

Two little boys had flattened their noses to the 
whiteness of winkles against the jealously misty 
windows. Algernon knew himself to be accounted 
a generous fellow, and remembering his reputation, 
he, as to hint at what Fortune might do in his case, 
U8 



RHODA FLEMING 

tossed some coppers to the urchins, who ducked to chapter 
the pavement and slid before the counter, in a flash, ^f\\^^ 
with never a ^ thank ye,' or the thought of it. Theatre 

Algernon was incapable of appreciating this childish 
faith in the beneficence of the unseen Powers who feed 
us, which, I must say for him, he had shared in a very 
similar manner only two hours ago. He laughed scorn- 
fully : * The little beggars ! ' considering in his soul that 
of such is humanity composed : as many a dinnerless 
man has said before, and will again, to point the speech 
of fools. He continued strolling on, comparing the 
cramped misty London aspect of things with his 
visionary free dream of the glorious prairies, where 
his other life was : the forests, the mountains, the 
endless expanses ; the horses, the flocks, the slip- 
shod ease of language and attire ; and the grog-shops. 
Aha! There could be no mistake about him as a 
gentleman and a scholar out there ! Nor would 
Nature shut up her pocket and demand innumerable 
things of him, as civilization did. This he thought 
in the vengefulness of his outraged mind. 

Not only had Algernon never failed to dine every 
day of his life : he had no recollection of having ever 
dined without drinking wine. His conception did not 
embrace the idea of a dinner lacking wine. Possibly 
he had some embodied understanding that wine did 
not fall to the lot of every fellow upon earth : he had 
heard of gullets unrefreshed even by beer: but at 
any rate he himself was accustomed to better things, 
and he did not choose to excavate facts from the 
mass of his knowledge in order to reconcile him- 
self to the miserable chop he saw for his dinner in 
the distance — a spot of meat in the arctic circle of 

119 



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CHAPTER 
XII 

At the 
Theatre 



a plate, not shone upon by any rosy-warming sun of 
a decanter ! 

But metaphorical language, though nothing other 
will convey the extremity of his misery, or the form 
of his thoughts, must be put aside. 

^ Egad, and every friend I have is out of town ! * he 
exclaimed, quite willing to think it part of the plot. 

He stuck his hands in his pockets and felt vagabond- 
like and reckless. The streets were revelling in their 
winter muck. The carriages rolling by insulted him 
with their display of wealth. 

He had democratic sentiments regarding them. O 
for a horse upon the boundless plains ! he sighed to his 
heart. He remembered bitterly how he had that day 
ridden his stool at the bank, dreaming of his wilds, 
where bailiff never ran, nor duns obscured the firma- 
ment. 

And then there were theatres here — huge extravagant 
places ! Algernon went over to an entrance of one, 
to amuse his mind, cynically criticizing the bill. A 
play was going forward within, that enjoyed great 
popular esteem : * The Holly Berries.' Seeing that the 
pit was crammed, Algernon made application to learn 
the state of the boxes, but hearing that one box was 
empty, he lost his interest in the performance. 

As he was strolling forth, his attention was taken 
by a noise at the pit-doors, which swung open, and 
out tumbled a tough little old man with a younger 
one grasping his coat-collar, who proclaimed that he 
would sicken him of pushing past him at the end of 
every act. 

* You 're precious fond of plays,' sneered the junior. 

* I 'm fond of everything I pay for, young fellow,' 
120 



RHODA FLEMING 



replied the shaken senior; *and that's a bit of enjoy- 
ment you 've got to learn — ain't it ? ' 

*Well, don't you knock by me again, that's all,' 
cried the choleric youth. 

* You don't think I 'm likely to stop in your company, 
do you?' 

* Whose expense have you been drinking at ? ' 

*My country's, young fellow; and mind you don't 
^oon feed at the table. Let me go.' 

Algernon's hunger was appeased by the prospect of 
some excitement, and seeing a vicious shake admini- 
stered to the old man by the young one, he cried, 
* Hands off ! ' and undertook policeman's duty ; but 
as he was not in blue, his authoritative mandate 
obtained no respect until he had interposed his fist. 

When he had done so, he recognized the porter at 
Boyne's Bank, whose enemy retired upon the threat 
that there should be no more pushing past him to get 
back to seats for the next act. 

* I paid,' said Anthony ; ' and you 're a ticketer, and 
you ticketers sha'n't stop me. I 'm worth a thousand 
of you. Holloa, sir,' he cried to Algernon ; * I didn't 
know you. I'm much obliged. These chaps get 
tickets given 'm, and grow as cocky in a theatre as 
men who pay. He never had such wine in him as 
I 've got. That I 'd swear. Ha ! ha ! I come out for 
an airing after every act, and there's a whole pitfiil 
of ticketers yelling and tearing, and I chaff my way 
through and back clean as a red-hot poker.' 

Anthony laughed, and rolled somewhat as he 
laughed. 

* Come along, sir, into the street,' he said, boring on 
to the pavement. * It 's after office hours. And, ha ! 

121 



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At the 

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CHAPTER 
XII 

At the 
Theatre 



RHODA FLEMING 

ha ! what do you think ? There 's old farmer in there, 
afraid to move off his seat, and the girl with him, stick- 
ing to him tight, and a good girl too. She thinks we 've 
had too much. We been to the Docks, wine-tasting : 
Port — Sherry : Sherry — Port ! and, ha ! ha ! " what a 
lot of wine ! " says farmer, never thinking how much 
he 's taking on board. " I guessed it was night," says 
farmer, as we got into the air, and to see him go on 
blinking, and stumbling, and saying to me " You stand 
wine, brother Tony ! " Pm blest if I ain't bottled 
laughter. So, says I, " come and see * The Holly 
Berries,' brother William John ; it 's the best play 
in London, and a suitable winter piece." "Is there 
a rascal hanged in the piece ? " says he. " Oh, yes ! " 
I let him fancy there was, and he — ha ! ha ! old 
farmer 's sticking to his seat, solemn as a judge, wait- 
ing for the gallows to come on the stage.' 

A thought quickened Algernon's spirit. It was a 
notorious secret among the young gentlemen who 
assisted in maintaining the prosperity of Boyne's 
Bank, that the old porter — the * Old Ant,' as he was 
called — possessed money, and had no objection to 
put out small sums for a certain interest. Algernon 
mentioned casually that he had left his purse at 
home ; and * by the way,' said he, * have you got a 
few sovereigns in your pocket ? ' 

*What! and come through that crush, sir?' An- 
thony negatived the question decisively with a refer- 
ence to his general knowingness. 

Algernon pressed him ; saying at last, * Well, have 
you got one ? ' 

* I don't think I 've been such a fool,' said Anthony, 
feeling slowly about his person, and muttering as to 
122 



RHODA FLEMING 

the changes that might possibly have been produced chapter 
in him by the Docks. ^^" 

•' At the 

* Confound it, I haven't dined ! ' exclaimed Algernon, Theatre 
to hasten his proceedings ; but at this, Anthony eyed 

him queerly. * What have you been about then, sir ? * 

* Don't you see I 'm in evening dress ? I had an 
appointment to dine with a friend. He didn't keep 
it. I find I 've left my purse in my other clothes.' 

* That 's a bad habit, sir,' was Anthony's comment. 
* You don't care much for your purse.' 

* Much for my purse, be hanged ! ' interjected 
Algernon. 

* You'd have felt it, or you'd have heard it, if 
there 'd been any weight in it,' Anthony remarked. 

* How can you hear paper ? ' 

* Oh, paper 's another thing. You keep paper in 
your mindy don't you — eh ? Forget pound notes ? 
Leave pound notes in a purse ? And you Sir William's 
nephew, sir, who 'd let you bank with him and put 
down everything in a book, so that you couldn't 
forget, or if you did, he 'd remember for you ; and 
you might change your clothes as often as not, and 
no fear of your losing a penny.' 

Algernon shrugged disgustedly, and was giving the 
old man up as a bad business, when Anthony altered 
his manner. * Oh ! well, sir, I don't mind letting you 
have what I 've got. I 'm out for fun. Bother affairs ! ' 

The sum of twenty shillings was handed to Algernon, 
after he had submitted to the indignity of going into 
a public-house, and writing his I. O. U. for twenty- 
three to Anthony Hackbut, which included interest. 
Algernon remonstrated against so needless a for- 
mality; but Anthony put the startling supposition 

123 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 
XII 

At the 
Theatre 



to him, that he might die that night. He signed 
the document, and was soon feeding and drinking his 
wine. This being accomplished, he took some hasty 
puffs of tobacco, and returned to the theatre, in the 
hope that the dark girl Rhoda was to be seen there ; 
for now that he had dined, Anthony's communication 
with regard to the farmer and his daughter became 
his uppermost thought, and a young man's upper- 
most thought is usually the propelling engine to his 
actions. 

By good chance, and the aid of a fee, he obtained 
a front seat, commanding an excellent side-view of 
the pit, which sat wrapt in contemplation of a Christ- 
mas scene: snow, ice, bare twigs, a desolate house, 
and a woman shivering — one of man's victims. 

It is a good public, that of Britain, and will bear 
anything, so long as villany is punished, of which 
there was ripe promise in the oracular utterances of 
a rolling, stout, stage-sailor, whose nose, to say no- 
thing of his frankness on the subject, proclaimed him 
his own worst enemy, and whose joke, by dint of 
repetition, had almost become the joke of the audience 
too; for whenever he appeared, there was agitation 
in pit and gallery, which subsided only on his jovial 
thundering of the familiar sentence ; whereupon 
laughter ensued, and a quieting hum of satisfaction. 

It was a play that had been favoured with a great 
run. Critics had once objected to it, that it was made 
to subsist on scenery, a song, and a stupid piece of 
cockneyism pretending to be a jest, that was really 
no more than a form of slapping the public on the 
back. But the public likes to have its back slapped, 
and critics, frozen by the Medusa-head of Success, 
124 



RHODA FLEMING 



were soon taught manners. The office of critic is 
now, in fact, virtually extinct; the taste for tickling 
and slapping is universal and imperative ; classic 
appeals to the intellect, and passions not purely 
domestic, have grown obsolete. There are captains 
of the legions, but no critics. The mass is lord. 

And behold our friend the sailor of the boards, 
whose walk is even as two meeting billows, appears 
upon the lonely moor, and salts that uninhabited 
region with nautical interjections. Loose are his 
hose in one part, tight in another, and he smacks 
them. It is cold; so let that be his excuse for 
showing the bottom of his bottle to the glittering 
spheres. He takes perhaps a sturdier pull at the 
liquor than becomes a manifest instrument of Pro- 
vidence, whose services may be immediately required ; 
but he informs us that his ship was never known 
not to right itself when called upon. 

He is alone in the world, he tells us likewise. If 
his one friend, the uplifted flask, is his enemy, why 
then he feels bound to treat his enemy as his friend. 
This, with a pathetic allusion to his interior economy, 
which was applauded, and the remark, 'Ain't that 
Christian?' which was just a trifle risky ; so he secured 
pit and gallery at a stroke by a surpassingly shrewd 
blow at the bishops of our Church, who are, it can 
barely be contested, in foul esteem with the multitude 
— none can say exactly for what reason — and must 
submit to be occasionally offered up as propitiatory 
sacrifices. 

This good sailor was not always alone in the world. 
A sweet girl, whom he describes as reaching to his 
knee-cap, and pathetically believes still to be of the 

125 



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XH 

At the 
Theatre 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 
XII 

At the 
Theatre 



same height, once called him brother Jack. To hear 
that name again from her lips, and a particular 
song ! — he attempts it ludicrously, yet touchingly 
withal. 

Hark ! Is it an echo from a spirit in the frigid air ? 

The song trembled with a silver ring to the remotest 
corners of the house. 

At that moment the breathless hush of the audience 
was flurried by hearing * Dahlia * called from the pit. 

Algernon had been spying among the close-packed 
faces for a sight of Rhoda. Rhoda was now standing 
up amid gathering hisses and outcries. Her eyes were 
bent on a particular box, across which a curtain was 
hastily being drawn. * My sister ! ' she sent out a voice 
of anguish, and remained with clasped hands and 
twisted eyebrows, looking toward that one spot, as if 
she would have flown to it. She was wedged in the 
mass, and could not move. 

The exclamation heard had belonged to brother Jack, 
on the stage, whose burst of fraternal surprise and 
rapture fell flat after it, to the disgust of numbers 
keenly awakened for the sentiment of this scene. 

Roaring accusations that she was drunk; that she 
had just escaped from Bedlam for an evening; that 
she should be gagged and turned headlong out, sur- 
rounded her; but she stood like a sculptured figure, 
vital in her eyes alone. The farmer put his arm about 
his girl's waist. The instant, however, that Anthony's 
head uprose on the other side of her, the evil reputa- 
tion he had been gaining for himself all through the 
evening produced a general clamour, over which the 
gallery played, miauling, and yelping like dogs that 
are never to be divorced from a noise. Algernon 

126 



RHODA FLEMING 



He quitted his seat, and ran out into 



and he came in contact with 
were mutually drenched with 



feared mischief, 
the lobby. 

Half-a-dozen steps, 
some one, and they 
water by the shock. It was his cousin Edward bear- 
ing a glass in his hand. 

Algernon's wrath at the sight of this offender was 
stimulated by the cold bath ; but Edward cut him short. 

* Go in there ' ; he pointed to a box-door. * A lady 
has fainted. Hold her up till I come.' 

No time was allowed for explanation. Algernon 
passed into the box, and was alone with an inanimate 
shape in blue bournous. The uproar in the theatre 
raged ; the whole pit was on its legs and shouting. He 
lifted the pallid head over one arm, miserably helpless 
and perplexed, but his anxiety concerning Rhoda's per- 
sonal safety in that sea of strife prompted him to draw 
back the curtain a little, and he stood exposed. Rhoda 
perceived him. She motioned with both her hands in 
dumb supplication. In a moment the curtain closed 
between them. Edward's sharp white face cursed him 
mutely for his folly, while he turned and put the water 
to Dahlia's lips, and touched her forehead with it. 

* What 's the matter ? ' whispered Algernon. 

*We must get her out as quick as we can. This 
is the way with women ! Come ! she 's recovering.' 
Edward nursed her sternly as he spoke. 

* If she doesn't, pretty soon, we shall have the pit in 
upon us,' said Algernon. * Is she that girl's sister ? ' 

* Don't ask damned questions.' 

Dahlia opened her eyes, staring placidly. 

* Now you can stand up, my dear. Dahlia ! all 's 
well. Try,' said Edward. 

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At the 

Theatre 



CHAPTER 
XII 

At the 
Theatre 



RHODA FLEMING 

She sighed, murmuring, ^ What is the time ? ' and again, 
* What noise is it ? ' 

Edward coughed in a vexed attempt at tenderness, 
using all his force to be gentle with her as he brought 
her to her feet. The task was difficult amid the 
threatening storm in the theatre, and cries of * Show 
the young woman her sister ! ' for Rhoda had won a 
party in the humane public. 

' Dahlia, in God's name give me your help ! ' Edward 
called in her ear. 

The fair girl's eyelids blinked wretchedly in pro- 
testation of her weakness. She had no will either 
way, and suffered herself to be led out of the box, 
supported by the two young men. 

*Run for a cab,' said Edward; and Algernon went 
ahead. 

He had one waiting for them as they came out. 
They placed Dahlia on a seat with care, and Edward, 
jumping in, drew an arm tightly about her. *I can't 
cry,' she moaned. 

The cab was driving off as a crowd of people burst 
from the pit-doors, and Algernon heard the voice of 
Farmer Fleming, very hoarse. He had discretion 
enough to retire. 



CHAPTER XIII 
The Farmer speaks 

Robert was to drive to the station to meet Rhoda 
and her father returning from London, on a specified 
day. He was eager to be asking cheerful questions 
128 



RHODA FLEMING 

of Dahlia's health and happiness, so that he might chapter 
dispel the absurd general belief that he had ever loved jhe Farmer 
the girl, and was now regretting her absence ; but speaks 
one look at Rhoda's face when she stepped from the 
railway carriage kept him from uttering a word on 
that subject, and the farmer's heavier droop and 
acceptance of a helping hand into the cart, were signs 
of bad import. 

Mr. Fleming made no show of grief, like one who 
nursed it. He took it to all appearance as patiently 
as an old worn horse would do, although such an 
outward submissiveness will not always indicate a 
placid spirit in men. He talked at stale intervals of 
the weather and the state of the ground along the 
line of rail down home, and pointed in contempt or 
approval to a field here and there ; but it was as one 
who no longer had any professional interest in the 
tilling of the land. 

Doubtless he was trained to have no understanding 
of a good to be derived by his communicating what 
he felt and getting sympathy. Once, when he was 
uncertain, and a secret pride in Dahlia's beauty and 
accomplishments had whispered to him that her flight 
was possibly the opening of her road to a higher 
fortune, he made a noise for comfort, believing in 
his heart that she was still to be forgiven. He knew 
better now. By holding his peace he locked out the 
sense of shame which speech would have stirred 
within him. 

*Got on pretty smooth with old Mas' Gammon?' 
he expressed his hope ; and Robert said, * Capitally. 
We shall make something out of the old man yet, 
never fear.' 

9—1 129 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Master Gammon was condemned to serve at the 

XIII 

The Farmer ^©ady-set tea-table as a butt for banter; otherwise it 
speaks was apprehended well that Mrs. Sumfit would have 
scorched the ears of all present, save the happy 
veteran of the furrows, with repetitions of Dahlia's 
name, and wailings about her darling, of whom no 
one spoke. They suffered from her in spite of every 
precaution. 

*Well, then, if I'm not to hear anything dooring 
meals — as if I*d swallow it and take it into my 
stomach ! — I '11 wait again for what ye Ve got to tell,' 
she said, and finished her cup at a gulp, smoothing 
her apron. 

The farmer then lifted his head. 

* Mother, if you 've done, you '11 oblige me by going 
to bed,' he said. * We want the kitchen.' 

*A-bed?' cried Mrs. Sumfit, with instantly ruffled 
lap. 

* Upstairs, mother ; when you 've done — not before.' 

* Then bad 's the noos ! Something have happened, 
William. You 'm not going to push me out ? And my 
place is by the tea-pot, which I cling to, rememberin' 
how I seen her curly head grow by inches up above 
the table and the cups. Mas' Gammon,' she appealed 
to the sturdy feeder, * five cups is your number ? ' 

Her hope was reduced to the prolonging of the 
service of tea, with Master Gammon's kind assistance. 

*Four, marm,' said her inveterate antagonist, as he 
finished that amount, and consequently put the spoon 
in his cup. 

Mrs. Sumfit rolled in her chair. 

< O Lord, Mas' Gammon ! Five, I say ; and never a 
cup less so long as here you 've been,' 
130 



RHODA FLEMING 

*Four, marm. I don*t know,' said Master Gammon, chapter 
with a slow nod of his head, * that ever I took five cups The Farmer 
of tea at a stretch. Not runnin'.* speaks 

* I do know, Mas* Gammon. And ought to : for don't 
I pour out to ye ? It 's five you take, and please, your 
cup, if you '11 hand it over.' 

'Four's my number, marm,' Master Gammon reite- 
rated resolutely. He sat like a rock. 

*If they was dumplins,' moaned Mrs. Sumfit, *not 
four, no, nor five, 'd do till enough you 'd had, and here 
we might stick to our chairs, but you 'd go on and on ; 
you know you would.' 

* That's eatin', marm'; Master Gammon condescended 
to explain the nature of his habits. * I 'm reg'lar in my 
drinkin'.' 

Mrs. Sumfit smote her hands together. * Oh Lord, 
Mas' Gammon, the wearisomest old man I ever come 
across is you. More tea's in the pot, and it ain't 
watery, and you won't be comfortable. May you get 
forgiveness from above ! is all I say, and I say no more. 
Mr. Robert, perhaps you '11 be so good as let me help 
you, sir ? It 's good tea ; and my Dody,' she added 
cajolingly, * my home girl '11 tell us what she saw. I 'm 
pinched and starved to hear.' 

* By-and-by, mother,' interposed the farmer ; * to- 
morrow.' He spoke gently, but frowned. 

Both Rhoda and Robert perceived that they were 
peculiarly implicated in the business which was to 
be discussed without Mrs. Sumfit's assistance. Her 
father's manner forbade Rhoda from making any pro- 
posal for the relief of the forlorn old woman. 

* And me not to hear to-night about your play-going ! ' 
sighed Mrs. Sumfit. * Oh, it 's hard on me. I do call a 

131 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER it cruel. And how my sweet was dressed — like as for 
^"^ a Ball ' 

The Farmer ^ -Dail. 

speaks She saw the farmer move his foot impatiently. 

* Then, if nobody drinks this remaining cup, I will,' 
she pursued. 

No voice save her own was heard till the cup was 
emptied, upon which Master Gammon, according to 
his wont, departed for bed to avoid the seduction of 
suppers, which he shunned as apoplectic, and Mrs. 
Sumfit prepared, in a desolate way, to wash the tea- 
things, but the farmer, saying that it could be done 
in the morning, went to the door and opened it 
for her. 

She fetched a great sigh and folded her hands re- 
signedly. As she was passing him to make her 
miserable enforced exit, the heavy severity of his 
face afflicted her with a deep alarm; she fell on her 
knees, crying — 

* Oh, William ! it ain*t for sake of hearin' talk ; but 
you, that went to see our Dahly, the blossom, *ve come 
back streaky under the eyes, and you make the house 
feel as if we neighboured Judgement Day. Down to 
tea you set the first moment, and me alone with none 
of you, and my love for my girl known well to you. 
And now to be marched off! How can I go a-bed and 
sleep, and my heart jumps so? It ain't Christian to 
ask me to. I got a heart, dear, I have. Do give a bit 
of comfort to it. Only a word of my Dahly to me.* 

The farmer replied : * Mother, let 's have no woman's 
nonsense. What we 've got to bear, let us bear. And 
you go on your knees to the Lord, and don't be a 
heathen woman, I say. Get up. There's a Bible in 
your bedroom. Find you out comfort in that.' 
132 



RHODA FLEMING 

'No, William, no!* she sobbed, still kneeling: 'there 
ain't a dose o' comfort there when poor souls is in the 
dark, and haven't got patience for passages. And me 
and my Bible ! — how can I read it, and not know my 
ailing, and a'stract one good word, William? It'll 
seem only the devil's shootin' black lightnings across 
the page, as poor blessed granny used to say, and she 
believed witches could do it to you in her time, when 
they was evil-minded. No ! To-night I look on the 
binding of the Holy Book, and I don't, and I won't, 
I sha'n't open it.' 

This violent end to her petition was wrought by 
the farmer grasping her arm to bring her to her 
feet. 

' Go to bed, mother.' 

' I sha'n't open it,' she repeated defiantly. ' And it 
ain't,' she gathered up her comfortable fat person to 
assist the words — 'it ain't good — no, not the best 
pious ones — I shall, and will say it! as is al'ays 
ready to smack your face with the Bible.' 

' Now, don't ye be angry,' said the farmer. 

She softened instantly. 

' William, dear, I got fifty-seven pounds sterling, and 
odd shillings, in a Savings-bank, and that I meant to 
go to Dahly, and not to yond' dark thing sitting there 
so sullen, and me in my misery ; I 'd give it to you 
now for news of my darlin'. Yes, William ; and my 
poor husband's cottage, in Sussex — seventeen pound 
per annum. That, if you '11 be goodness itself, and let 
me hear a word.' 

' Take her upstairs,' said the farmer to Rhoda, and 
Rhoda went by her and took her hands, and by dint 
of pushing from behind and dragging in front, Mrs. 

133 



CHAPTER 

xm 

The Farmer 
speaks 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Sumfit, as near on a shriek as one so fat and sleek 

XIII 

The Farmer ^ould be, was ejected. The farmer and Robert heard 
speaks her struggles and exclamations along the passage, but 
her resistance subsided very suddenly. 

* There *s power in that girl,' said the farmer, stand- 
ing by the shut door. 

Robert thought so, too. It affected his imagination, 
and his heart began to beat sickeningly. 

* Perhaps she promised to speak — what has happened, 
whatever that may be,' he suggested. 

* Not she ; not she. She respects my wishes.* 
Robert did not ask what had happened. 

Mr. Fleming remained by the door, and shut his 
mouth from a further word till he heard Rhoda's re- 
turning footstep. He closed the door again behind 
her, and went up to the square deal table, leaned his 
body forward on the knuckles of his trembling fist, 
and said, * We 're pretty well broken up, as it is. I 've 
lost my taste for life.' 

There he paused. Save by the shining of a wet 
forehead, his face betrayed nothing of the anguish he 
suffered. He looked at neither of them, but sent his 
gaze straight away under labouring brows to an arm 
of the fireside chair, while his shoulders drooped on 
the wavering support of his hard-shut hands. Rhoda's 
eyes, ox-like, as were her father's, smote full upon 
Robert's, as in a pang of apprehension of what was 
about to be uttered. 

It was a quick blaze of light, wherein he saw that 
the girl's spirit was not with him. He would have 
stopped the farmer at once, but he had not the heart 
to do it, even had he felt in himself strength to attract 
an intelligent response from that strange, grave, 
134 



RHODA FLEMING 

bovine fixity of look, over which the human misery chapter 
sat as a thing not yet taken into the dull brain. The Farmer 

'My taste for life/ the old man resumed, * that's speak* 
gone. I didn't bargain at set-out to go on fighting agen 
the world. It's too much for a man o' my years. 
Here 's the farm. Shall 't go to pieces ? I 'm a farmer 
of thirty year back — thirty year back, and more. I 'm 
about no better 'n a farm labourer in our time, which 
is to-day. I don't cost much. I ask to be fed, and to 
work for it, and to see my poor bit o' property safe, 
as handed to me by my father. Not for myself, 't 
ain't ; though perhaps there 's a bottom of pride there 
too, as in most things. Say it's for the name. My 
father seems to demand of me out loud, "What ha' 
ye done with Queen Anne's Farm, William?" and 
there 's a holler echo in my ears. Well ; God wasn't 
merciful to give me a son. He gave me daughters.' 

Mr. Fleming bowed his head as to the very weapon 
of chastisement. 

* Daughters ! ' he bent lower. 

His hearers might have imagined his headless address 
to them to be also without a distinct termination, for 
he seemed to have ended as abruptly as he had begun ; 
so long was the pause before, with a wearied lifting 
of his body, he pursued/ in a sterner voice : 

* Don't let none interrupt me.' His hand was raised 
as toward where Rhoda stood, but he sent no look 
with it ; the direction was wide of her. 

The aspect of the blank blind hand motioning to the 
wall away from her, smote an awe through her soul 
that kept her dumb, though his next words were like 
thrusts of a dagger in her side. 

*My first girl — she 's brought disgrace on this house. 

135 




RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER She *s got a mother in heaven, and that mother *s got 

XIII 

The Farmer *^ blush for her. My first girl 's gone to harlotry in 
speaks London.* 

It was Scriptural severity of speech. Robert glanced 
quick with intense commiseration at Rhoda. He saw 
her hands travel upward till they fixed in at her 
temples with crossed fingers, making the pressure of 
an iron band for her head, while her lips parted, and 
her teeth, and cheeks, and eyeballs were all of one 
whiteness. Her tragic, even, in and out breathing, 
where there was no fall of the breast, but the air was 
taken and given, as it were the square blade of a sharp- 
edged sword, was dreadful to see. She had the look 
of a risen corpse, recalling some one of the bloody 
ends of life. 

The farmer went on — 

* Bury her ! Now you here know the worst. There 's 
my second girl. She's got no stain on her ; if people '11 
take her for what she is herself. She 's idle. But I 
believe the flesh on her bones she 'd wear away for 
any one that touched her heart. She 's a temper. But 
she 's clean both in body and in spirit, as I believe, and 
say before my God. I — what I 'd pray for is, to see 
this girl safe. All I have shall go to her. That is, to 
the man who will — won't be ashamed — marry her, I 
mean ! ' 

The tide of his harshness failed him here, and he 
began to pick his words, now feeble, now emphatic, 
but alike wanting in natural expression, for he had 
reached a point of emotion upon the limits of his 
nature, and he was now wilfully forcing for misery 
and humiliation right and left, in part to show what 
a black star Providence had been over him. 
136 



RHODA FLEMING 

* She '11 be grateful. I shall be gone. What disgrace 
I bring to their union, as father of the other one also, 
will, I 'm bound to hope, be buried with me in my 
grave; so that this girl's husband sha'n't have to 
complain that her character and her working for him 
ain't enough to cover any harm he's like to think 
o' the connexion. And he won't be troubled by re- 
lationships after that. 

*I used to think Pride a bad thing. I thank God 
we 've all got it in our blood — the Flemings. I thank 
God for that now, I do. We don't face again them 
as we offend. Not, that is, with the hand out. We 
go. We're seen no more. And she'll be seen no 
more. On that, rely. 

' I want my girl here not to keep me in the fear of 
death. For I fear death while she 's not safe in some- 
body's hands — kind, if I can get him for her. Some- 
body — young or old ! ' 

The farmer lifted his head for the first time, and 
stared vacantly at Robert. 

*rd marry her,' he said, *if I was knowing myself 
dying now or to-morrow morning, I'd marry her, 
rather than leave her alone — I'd marry her to that 
old man, old Gammon.' 

The farmer pointed to the ceiling. His sombre 
seriousness cloaked and carried even that suggestive 
indication to the possible bridegroom's age and habits, 
and all things associated with him, through the gates 
of ridicule ; and there was no laughter, and no thought 
of it. 

* It stands to reason for me to prefer a young man 
for her husband. He'll farm the estate, and won't 
sell it; so that it goes to our blood, if not to a 

137 



CHAPTER 

XIII 

The Farmer 

speaks 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Fleming. If, I mean, he's content to farm soberly, 

XIII 

The Farmer ^^^ ^^^ ^^^V ^^^k o' Lantern tricks across his own 

speaks acrcs. Right in one thing 's right, I grant ; but don't 

argue right in all. It *s right only in one thing. Young 

men, when they've made a true hit or so, they're 

ready to think it 's themselves that 's right.' 

This was of course a reminder of the old feud with 
Robert, and sufficiently showed whom the farmer had 
in view for a husband to Rhoda, if any doubt existed 
previously. 

Having raised his eyes, his unwonted power of 
speech abandoned him, and he concluded, wavering 
in look and in tone — 

'I'd half forgotten her uncle. I've reckoned his 
riches when I cared for riches. I can't say th' 
amount ; but, all — I 've had his word for it — all 
goes to this — God knows how much ! — girl. And 
he don't hesitate to say she 's worth a young man's 
fancying. May be so. It depends upon ideas mainly, 
that does. All goes to her. And this farm. — I wish 
ye good-night.* 

He gave them no other sign, but walked in his 
oppressed way quietly to the inner door, and forth, 
leaving the rest to them. 



CHAPTER XIV 

Between Rhoda and Robert 

The two were together, and all preliminary difficulties 
had been cleared for Robert to say what he had to say, 
in a manner to make the saying of it well-nigh impos- 
138 



RHODA FLEMING 

sible. And yet silence might be misinterpreted by chapter 
her. He would have drawn her to his heart at one « *_^^^^ . 

Between Rnoaa 

sign of tenderness. There came none. The girl was »nd Robert 
frightfully torn with a great wound of shame. She 
was the first to speak. 

* Do you believe what father says of my sister ? * 

* That she ? * Robert swallowed the words. 

* No ! ' and he made a thunder with his fist. 

* No ! ' She drank up the word. * You do not ? No ! 
You know that Dahlia is innocent ? * 

Rhoda was trembling with a look for the assevera- 
tion ; her pale face eager as a cry for life ; but the 
answer did not come at once hotly as her passion 
for it demanded. She grew rigid, murmuring faintly : 

* Speak ! Do speak ! ' 

His eyes fell away from hers. Sweet love would 
have wrought in him to think as she thought, but 
she kept her heart closed from him, and he stood 
sadly judicial, with a conscience of his own, that 
would not permit him to declare Dahlia innocent, for 
he had long been imagining the reverse. 

Rhoda pressed her hands convulsively, moaning 

* Oh ! * down a short deep breath. 

* Tell me what has happened ? ' said Robert, made 
mad by that reproachful agony of her voice. * I 'm 
in the dark. I'm not equal to you all. If Dahlia's 
sister wants one to stand up for her, and defend her, 
whatever she has done or not done, ask me. Ask 
me, and I'll revenge her. Here am I, and I know 

nothing, and you despise me because don't think 

me rude or unkind. This hand is yours, if you will. 
Come, Rhoda. Or, let me hear the case, and I '11 satisfy 
you as best I can. Feel for her? I feel for her as you 

139 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER do. You don't want me to stand a liar to your ques- 

Betwe^iRhoda ^^^^ ? ^ow Can I speak ? ' 
and Robert A woman's instinct at red heat pierces the partial 
disingenuousness which Robert could only have avoided 
by declaring the doubts he entertained. Rhoda desired 
simply to be supported by his conviction of her sister's 
innocence, and she had scorn of one who would not 
chivalrously advance upon the risks of right and 
wrong, and rank himself prime champion of a woman 
belied, absent, and so helpless. Besides, there was 
but one virtue possible in Rhoda's ideas, as regarded 
Dahlia : — to oppose facts, if necessary, and have her 
innocent perforce, and fight to the death them that 
dared cast slander on the beloved head. 

Her keen instinct served her so far. 

His was alive when she refused to tell him what had 
taken place during their visit to London. 

She felt that a man would judge evil of the circum- 
stances. Her father and her uncle had done so: she 
felt that Robert would. Love for him would have 
prompted her to confide in him absolutely. She was 
not softened by love; there was no fire on her side 
to melt and make them run in one stream, and they 
could not meet. 

*Then, if you will not tell me,' said Robert, *say 
what you think of your father's proposal ? He meant 
that I may ask you to be my wife. He used to fancy 
I cared for your sister. That's false. I care for her 
— yes ; as my sister too ; and here is my hand to do 
my utmost for her, but I love you, and I 've loved you 
for some time. I 'd be proud to marry you and help 
on with the old farm. You don't love me yet — which 
is a pretty hard thing for me to see to be certain of. 
140 



RHODA FLEMING 

But I love you, and I trust you. I like the stuff you Ve chapter 
made of — and nice stuff I 'm talking to a young woman/ ^^^ 

, ,,,..,.-,," '' ° ' ctwcenRhodA 

he added, wiping his forehead at the idea of the fair ana Robert 
and flattering addresses young women expect when 
they are being wooed. 

As it was, Rhoda listened with savage contempt of 
his idle talk. Her brain was beating at the mystery 
and misery wherein Dahlia lay engulphed. She had 
no understanding for Robert's sentimentality, or her 
father's requisition. Some answer had to be given, 
and she said : — 

*I*m not likely to marry a man who supposes he 
has anything to pardon.' 

* I don't suppose it,' cried Robert. 

* You heard what father said.' 

' I heard what he said, but I don't think the same. 
What has Dahlia to do with you ? ' 

He was proceeding to rectify this unlucky sentence. 
All her covert hostility burst out on it. 

* My sister ? — what has my sister to do with me ? — 
you mean ! — you mean ! — you can only mean that we 
are to be separated and thought of as two people ; and 
we are one, and will be till we die. I feel my sister's 
hand in mine, though she's away and lost. She is 
my darling for ever and ever. We 're one ! * 

A spasm of anguish checked the girl. 

*I mean,' Robert resumed steadily, *that her conduct, 
good or bad, doesn't touch you. If it did, it 'd be the 
same to me. I ask you to take me for your husband. 
Just reflect on what your father said, Rhoda.' 

The horrible utterance her father's lips had been 
guilty of flashed through her, filling her with mas- 
tering vindictiveness, now that she had a victim. 

141 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER < Yes ! I 'm to take a husband to remind me of what 
XIV - . , , 

Between Rhoda ""^ SaiQ. 

and Robert Robert eyed her sharpened mouth admiringly; her 
defence of her sister had excited his esteem, wilfully 
though she rebutted his straightforward earnestness : 
and he had a feeling also for the easy turns of her 
neck, and the confident poise of her figure. 

*Ha! well! ' he interjected, with his eyebrows queerly 
raised, so that she could make nothing of his look. It 
seemed half maniacal, it was so ridged with bright 
eagerness. 

*By heaven! the task of taming you — that's the 
blessing I 'd beg for in my prayers ! Though you were 
as wild as a cat of the woods, by heaven ! I 'd rather 
have the taming of you than go about with a leash of 
quiet,* he checked himself * companions.* 

Such was the sudden roll of his tongue, that she 
was lost in the astounding lead he had taken, and 
stared. 

* You *re the beauty to my taste, and devil is what I 
want in a woman ! I can make something out of a 
girl with a temper like yours. You don't know me. 
Miss Rhoda. I 'm what you reckon a good young 
man. Isn't that it ? ' 

Robert drew up with a very hard smile. 

* I would to God I were ! Mind, I feel for you about 
your sister. I like you the better for holding to her 
through thick and thin. But my sheepishness has 
gone, and I tell you I '11 have you whether you will or 
no. I can help you and you can help me. I 've lived 
here as if I had no more fire in me than old Gammon 
snoring on his pillow up aloft ; and who kept me to 
it? Did you see I never touched liquor? What did 

142 



RHODA FLEMING 

you guess from that? — that I was a mild sort of chapter 
fellow ? So I am : but I haven't got that reputation „ ^^\ 

o « Between Rhoda 

in other parts. Your father 'd like me to marry you, and Robert 
and I'm ready. Who kept me to work, so that I 
might learn to farm, and be a man, and be able to take 
a wife ? I came here — I '11 tell you how. I was a 
useless dog. I ran from home and served as a trooper. 
An old aunt of mine left me a little money, which just 
woke me up and gave me a lift of what conscience I 
had, and I bought myself out. 

* I chanced to see your father's advertisement — came, 
looked at you all, and liked you — brought my traps 
and settled among you, and lived like a good young 
man. I like peace and orderliness, I find. I always 
thought I did, when I was dancing like mad to hell. I 
know I do now, and you 're the girl to keep me to it. 
I 've learnt that much by degrees. With any other, I 
should have been playing the fool, and going my old 
ways, long ago. I should have wrecked her, and drunk 
to forget. You 're my match. By-and-by you '11 know 
me yours ! You never gave me, or anybody else that 
I 've seen, sly sidelooks. 

* Come ! I '11 speak out now I 'm at work. I thought 
you at some girl's games in the Summer. You went 
out one day to meet a young gentleman. Offence or no 
offence, I speak and you listen. You did go out. I 
was in love with you then, too. I saw London had 
been doing its mischief. I was down about it. I felt 
that he would make nothing of you, but I chose to take 
the care of you, and you 've hated me ever since. 

* That Mr. Algernon Blancove 's a rascal. Stop ! 
You '11 say as much as you like presently. I give you 
a warning — the man 's a rascal. I didn't play spy on 

143 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER your acts, but your looks. I can read a face like yours, 

XIV 

Between Rhoda ^^^ ^* '^ "^y ^O"^®' ^y ^^^^ *— ^^ heaven, it is. Now, 
and Robert Rhoda, you know a little more of me. Perhaps I 'm 
more of a man than you thought. Marry another, if 
you will ; but I 'm the man for you, and I know it, 
and you '11 go wrong if you don't too. Come ! let 
your father sleep well. Give me your hand.' 

All through this surprising speech of Robert's, which 
was a revelation of one who had been previously dark 
to her, she had steeled her spirit as she felt herself 
being borne upon unexpected rapids, and she marvelled 
when she found her hand in his. 

Dismayed, as if caught in a trap, she said : 
< You know I 've no love for you at all.' 

* None — no doubt,' he answered. 

The fit of verbal energy was expended, and he had 
become listless, though he looked frankly at her and 
assumed the cheerfulness which was failing within 
him. 

* I wish to remain as I am,' she faltered, surprised 
again by the equally astonishing recurrence of humility, 
and more spiritually subdued by it. * I 've no heart for 
a change. Father will understand. I am safe.' 

She ended with a cry : * Oh ! my dear, my own sister ! 
I wish you were safe. Get her here to me and I'll 
do what I can, if you 're not hard on her. She 's so 
beautiful, she can't do wrong. My Dahlia 's in some 
trouble. Mr. Robert, you might really be her friend ? ' 

* Drop the Mister,' said Robert. 

* Father will listen to you,' she pleaded. ^ You won't 
leave us ? Tell him you know I am safe. But I haven't 
a feeling of any kind while my sister 's away. I will call 
you Robert, if you like.' She reached her hand forth. 

144 



RHODA FLEMING 

* That 's right,' he said, taking it with a show of chapter 
heartiness : ' that 's a beginning, I suppose/ Bctwe^n^Rhocu 

She shrank a little in his sensitive touch, and he and Robert 
added : * Oh never fear. I 've spoken out, and don't 
do the thing too often. Now you know me, that's 
enough. I trust you, so trust me. I'll talk to your 
father. I 've got a dad of my own, who isn't so easily 
managed. You and I, Rhoda — we're about the right 
size for a couple. There — don't be frightened ! I was 

only thinking 1 '11 let go your hand in a minute. If 

Dahlia 's to be found, I '11 find her. Thank you for that 
squeeze. You 'd wake a dead man to life, if you wanted 
to. To-morrow I set about the business. That 's settled. 
Now your hand 's loose. Are you going to say good- 
night? You must give me your hand again for that. 
What a rough fellow I must seem to you ! Different 
from the man you thought I was? I'm just what 
you choose to make me, Rhoda ; remember that. By 
heaven ! go at once, for you 're an armful ' 

She took a candle and started for the door. 

*Aha! you can look fearful as a doe. Out! make 
haste ! ' 

In her hurry at his speeding gestures, the candle 
dropped; she was going to pick it up, but as he ap- 
proached, she stood away frightened. 

* One kiss, my girl,' he said. * Don't keep me jealous 
as fire. One ! and I 'm a plighted man. One ! — or I 
shall swear you know what kisses are. Why did you 
go out to meet that fellow ? Do you think there 's no 
danger in it ? Doesn't he go about boasting of it now, 
and saying — that girl ! But kiss me and I '11 forget it ; 
I'll forgive you. Kiss me only once, and I shall be 
certain you don't care for him. That's the thought 
9— K 145 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER maddens me outright. I can't bear it now I 've seen 

Betwe^iRhoda ^^^ ^^^^ ^^^^' ^ '^ Stronger than you, mind.' He 
and Robert caught her by the waist. 

* Yes/ Rhoda gasped, * you are. You are only a brute.' 

* A brute 's a lucky dog, then, for I 've got you ! ' 

* Will you touch me ? ' 

* You 're in my power.' 

* It 's a miserable thing, Robert.' 

* Why don't you struggle, my girl ? I shall kiss you 
in a minute.' 

* You 're never my friend again.' 

* I 'm not a gentleman, I suppose ! * 

* Never ! after this.' 

* It isn't done. And first you 're like a white rose, 
and next you 're like a red. Will you submit ? ' 

* Oh ! shame ! ' Rhoda uttered. 

* Because I 'm not a gentleman ? ' 
'You are not.' 

* So, if I could make you a lady — eh ? the lips 'd be 
ready in a trice. You think of being made a lady — a 
lady ! ' 

His arm relaxed in the clutch of her figure. 

She got herself free, and said : * We saw Mr. Blan- 
cove at the theatre with Dahlia.' 

It was her way of meeting his accusation that she 
had cherished an ambitious feminine dream. 

He, to hide a confusion that had come upon him, 
was righting the fallen candle. 

' Now I know you can be relied on ; you can defend 
yourself,' he said, and handed it to her, lighted. * You 
keep your kisses for this or that young gentleman. 
Quite right. You really can defend yourself. That 's 
all I was up to. So let us hear that you forgive me. 
146 



RHODA FLEMING 

The door 's open. You won't be bothered by me any chapter 
more ; and don't hate me overmuch.' ^ _ ^^X> 

Between Rhoda 

* You might have learned to trust me without insult- and Robert 
ing me, Robert,' she said. 

* Do you fancy I 'd take such a world of trouble for 
a kiss of your lips, sweet as they are ? ' 

His blusterous beginning ended in a speculating 
glance at her mouth. 

She saw it would be wise to accept him in his 
present mood, and go ; and with a gentle ^ Good-night,' 
that might sound like pardon, she passed through the 
doorway. 



CHAPTER XV 
A Visit to Wrexby Hall 

Next day, while Squire Blancove was superintending 
the laying down of lines for a new carriage-drive in 
his park, as he walked slowly up the green slope he 
perceived Farmer Fleming, supported by a tall young 
man ; and when the pair were nearer, he had the grati- 
fication of noting likewise that the worthy yeoman 
was very much bent, as with an attack of his well- 
known chronic malady of a want of money. 

The squire greatly coveted the freehold of Queen 
Anne's Farm. He had made offers to purchase it till 
he was tired, and had gained for himself the credit 
of being at the bottom of numerous hypothetical cabals 
to injure and oust the farmer from his possession. But 
if Naboth came with his vineyard in his hand, not even 
Wrexby's rector (his quarrel with whom haunted every 

147 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER turn in his life) could quote Scripture against him for 
A Visit to taking it at a proper valuation. 
WrexbyHaii The squire had employed his leisure time during 
service in church to discover a text that might be used 
against him in the event of the farmer's reduction to 
a state of distress, and his, the squire's, making the 
most of it. On the contrary, according to his heathen- 
ish reading of some of the patriarchal doings, there 
was more to be said in his favour than not, if he in- 
creased his territorial property : nor could he, through- 
out the Old Testament, hit on one sentence that looked 
like a personal foe to his projects, likely to fit into 
the mouth of the rector of Wrexby. 

*Well, farmer,' he said, with cheerful familiarity, 
* winter crops looking well ? There 's a good show of 
green in the fields from my windows, as good as that 
land of yours will allow in heavy seasons.' 

To this the farmer replied, ^ I 've not heart or will 
to be roundabout, squire. If you '11 listen to me — here, 
or where you give command.' 

*Has it anything to do with pen and paper, Fleming? 
In that case you'd better be in my study,' said the 
squire. 

^ I don't know that it have. I don't know that it 
have.' The farmer sought Robert's face. 

*Best where there's no chance of interruption,' 
Robert counselled, and lifted his hat to the squire. 

* Eh ? Well, you see I 'm busy.' The latter afPected 
a particular indifference, that in such cases, when 
well-acted (as lords of money can do — squires equally 
with usurers), may be valued at hundreds of pounds 
in the pocket. * Can't you put it off ? Come again 
to-morrow.' 
148 



RHODA FLEMING 

* To-morrow 's a day too late,* said the farmer gravely, chapter 
Whereto replying, * Oh ! well, come along in, then,* ^ y'^Jj ^^ 
the squire led the way. Wrexby haii 

* You 're two to one, if it *s a transaction,* he said, 
nodding to Robert to close the library door. *Take 
seats. Now then, what is it ? And if I make a face, 
just oblige me by thinking nothing about it, for my 
gout *s beginning to settle in the leg again, and shoots 
like an electric telegraph from purgatory.* 

He wheezed and lowered himself into his arm-chair ; 
but the farmer and Robert remained standing, and the 
farmer spoke : — 

* My words are going to be few, squire. I *ve got a 
fact to bring to your knowledge, and a question to 
ask.' 

Surprise, exaggerated on his face by a pain he had 
anticipated, made the squire glare hideously. 

* Confound it, that 's what they say to a prisoner in 
the box. Here 's a murder committed : — Are you the 
guilty person ? Fact and question ! Well, out with 
'em, both together.* 

* A father ain't responsible for the sins of his chil- 
dren,* said the farmer. 

* Well, that 's a fact,* the squire emphasized. * I *ve 
always maintained it ; but, if you go to your church, 
farmer — small blame to you if you don*t ; that fellow 
who preaches there — I forget his name — stands out for 
just the other way. You are responsible, he swears. 
Pay your son's debts, and don't groan over it : — He 
spent the money, and you 're the chief debtor ; that *s 
his teaching. Well : go on. What *s your question ? * 

* A father 's not to be held responsible for the sins 
of his children, squire. My daughter 's left me. She *s 

149 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 
XV 

A Visit to 
Wrexby Hai: 



away. I saw my daughter at the theatre in London. 
She saw me, and saw her sister with me. She dis- 
appeared. It's a hard thing for a man to be saying 
of his own flesh and blood. She disappeared. She 
went, knowing her father's arms open to her. She 
was in company with your son.' 

The squire was thrumming on the arm of his chair. 
He looked up vaguely, as if waiting for the question to 
follow, but meeting the farmer's settled eyes, he cried 
irritably, * Well, what 's that to me ? ' 

* What 's that to you, squire ? ' 

* Are you going to make me out responsible for my 
son's conduct ? My son 's a rascal — everybody knows 
that. I paid his debts once, and I've finished with 
him. Don't come to me about the fellow. If there 's 
a greater curse than the gout, it 's a son.' 

* My girl,' said the farmer, * she 's my flesh and blood, 
and I must find her, and I 'm here to ask you to make 
your son tell me where she 's to be found. Leave me 
to deal with that young man — leave you me! but I 
want my girl.' 

*But I can't give her to you,' roared the squire, 
afflicted by his two great curses at once. * Why do 
you come to me ? I 'm not responsible for the doings 
of the dog. I'm sorry for you, if that's what you 
want to know. Do you mean to say that my son 
took her away from your house ? ' 

^ I don't do so, Mr. Blancove. I 'm seeking for my 
daughter, and I see her in company with your son.' 

* Very well, very well,' said the squire ; * that shows 
his habits ; I can't say more. But what has it got to 
do with me ? ' 

The farmer looked helplessly at Robert. 
150 



RHODA FLEMING 

*No, no,' the squire sung out, *no interlopers, no chapter 
interpreting here. I listen to you. My son — your AVhJtto 
daughter. I understand that, so far. It 's between us Wrcxby luii 
two. You 've got a daughter who 's gone wrong some- 
how : I 'm sorry to hear it. I 've got a son who never 
went right ; and it 's no comfort to me, upon my word. 
If you were to see the bills and the letters I receive ! 
but I don't carry my grievances to my neighbours. 
I should think, Fleming, you 'd do best, if it 's advice 
you 're seeking, to keep it quiet. Don't make a noise 
about it. Neighbours' gossip / find pretty well the 
worst thing a man has to bear, who 's unfortunate 
enough to own children.' 

The farmer bowed his head with that bitter humble- 
ness which characterized his reception of the dealings 
of Providence toward him. 

* My neighbours '11 soon be none at all,' he said. 
'Let 'em talk. I'm not abusing you, Mr. Blancove. 
I 'm a broken man : but I want my poor lost girl, and, 
by God, responsible for your son or not, you must 
help me to find her. She may be married, as she 
says. She mayn't be. But I must find her.' 

The squire hastily seized a scrap of paper on the 
table and wrote on it. 

* There ' ; he handed the paper to the farmer ; * that 's 
my son's address, " Boyne's Bank, City, London." Go 
to him there, and you '11 find him perched on a stool, 
and a good drubbing won't hurt him. You've my 
hearty permission, I can assure you : you may say 
so. "Boyne's Bank." Anybody will show you the 
place. He 's a rascally clerk in the office, and precious 
useful, I dare swear. Thrash him, if you think fit.' 

*Ay,' said the farmer, 'Boyne's Bank. I've been 

151 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER there already. He 's absent from work, on a visit 

A Visit to down into Hampshire, one of the young gentlemen 

Wrexby Hall informed me ; Fairly Park was the name of the place : 

but I came to you, Mr. Blancove; for you're his 

father.* 

* Well now, my good Fleming, I hope you think I 'm 
properly punished for that fact.' The squire stood up 
with horrid contortions. 

Robert stepped in advance of the farmer. 

* Pardon me, sir,' he said, though the squire met his 
voice with a prodigious frown ; ' this would be an ugly 
business to talk about, as you observe. It would hurt 
Mr. Fleming in these parts of the country, and he 
would leave it, if he thought fit ; but you can't sepa- 
rate your name from your son's — begging you to 
excuse the liberty I take in mentioning it — not in 
public : and your son has the misfortune to be well 
known in one or two places where he was quartered 
when in the cavalry. That matter of the jeweller ' 

'HuUoa,' the squire exclaimed, in a perturbation. 

*Why, sir, I know all about it, because I was a 
trooper in the regiment your son, Mr. Algernon Blan- 
cove, quitted: and his name, if I may take leave to 
remark so, won't bear printing. How far he 's guilty 
before Mr. Fleming we can't tell as yet ; but if Mr. 
Fleming holds him guilty of an offence, your son '11 
bear the consequences, and what 's done will be done 
thoroughly. Proper counsel will be taken, as needn't 
be said. Mr. Fleming applied to you first, partly for 
your sake as well as his own. He can find friends, 
both to advise and to aid him.' 

* You mean, sir,' thundered the squire, * that he can 
find enemies of mine, like that infernal fellow who 

152 



RHODA FLEMING 

goes by the title of Reverend, down below there, chapter 
That '11 do, that will do ; there 's some extortion at . „^^ 

A Visit to 

the bottom of this. You re putting on a screw.' wrexby Haii 

* We 're putting on a screw, sir,' said Robert coolly. 

* Not a penny will you get by it.' 
Robert flushed with heat of blood. 

* You don't wish you were a young man half so 
much as I do just now,' he remarked, and immediately 
they were in collision, for the squire made a rush to 
the bell-rope, and Robert stopped him. * We 're going,' 
he said ; * we don't want man-servants to show us 
the way out. Now mark me, Mr. Blancove, you've 
insulted an old man in his misery: you shall suffer 
for it, and so shall your son, whom I know to be 
a rascal worthy of transportation. You think Mr. 
Fleming came to you for money. Look at this old 
man, whose only fault is that he's too full of kind- 
ness ; he came to you just for help to find his daughter, 
with whom your rascal of a son was last seen, and 
you swear he's come to rob you of money. Don't 
you know yourself a fattened cur, squire though you 
be, and called gentleman? England's a good place, 
but you make England a hell to men of spirit. Sit in 
your chair, and don't ever you, or any of you cross 
my path ; and speak a word to your servants before 
we're out of the house, and I stand in the hall and 
give 'em your son's history, and make Wrexby stink 
in your nostril, till you 're glad enough to fly out of it. 
Now, Mr. Fleming, there 's no more to be done here ; 
the game lies elsewhere.' 

Robert took the farmer by the arm, and was march- 
ing out of the enemy's territory in good order, when 
the squire, who had presented many changeing aspects 

153 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER of astonishment and rage, arrested them with a call. 

XV 

A Visit to ^^ began to say that he spoke to Mr. Fleming, and 
wrexby Hall not to the young ruffian of a bully whom the farmer 
had brought there : and then asked in a very reason- 
able manner what he could do — what measures he 
could adopt to aid the farmer in finding his child. 
Robert hung modestly in the background while the 
farmer laboured on with a few sentences to explain 
the case, and finally the squire said, that his foot 
permitting (it was an almost pathetic reference to the 
weakness of flesh), he would go down to Fairly on 
the day following and have a personal interview with 
his son, and set things right, as far as it lay in his 
power, though he was by no means answerable for a 
young man's follies. 

He was a little frightened by the farmer's having 
said that Dahlia, according to her own declaration 
was married, and therefore himself the more anxious 
to see Mr. Algernon, and hear the truth from his 
estimable offspring, whom he again stigmatized as a 
curse terrible to him as his gouty foot, but neverthe- 
less just as little to be left to his own devices. The 
farmer bowed to these observations ; as also when the 
squire counselled him, for his own sake, not to talk 
of his misfortune all over the parish. 

* I 'm not a likely man for that, squire ; but there 's 
no telling where gossips get their crumbs. It 's about. 
It 's about.' 

* About my son ? ' cried the squire. 

* My daughter ! ' 

*Oh, well, good day,' the squire resumed more 
cheerfully. * I '11 go down to Fairly, and you can't 
ask more than that.' 
154 



RHODA FLEMING 

When the farmer was out of the house and out of chapter 
hearing, he rebuked Robert for the inconsiderate rash- ^ y"^J^ ^^ 
ness of his behaviour, and pointed out how he, the wrexbyHaii 
farmer, by being patient and peaceful, had attained 
to the object of his visit. Robert laughed without 
defending himself. 

* I shouldn't ha* known ye,' the farmer repeated 
frequently ; * I shouldn't ha' known ye, Robert.' 

*No, I'm a trifle changed, may be,' Robert agreed. 

* I 'm going to claim a holiday of you. I 've told Rhoda 
that if Dahlia 's to be found, I '11 find her, and I can't 
do it by sticking here. Give me three weeks. The 
land 's asleep. Old Gammon can hardly turn a furrow 
the wrong way. There 's nothing to do, which is his 
busiest occupation, when he 's not interrupted at it.' 

*Mas' Gammon's a rare old man,' said the farmer 
emphatically. 

* So I say. Else, how would you see so many farms 
flourishing ! ' 

*Come, Robert: you hit th' old man hard: you 
should learn to forgive.' 

* So I do, and a telling blow 's a man's best road to 
charity. I 'd forgive the squire and many another, if 
I had them within two feet of my fist.' 

* Do you forgive my girl Rhoda for putting of you off?* 
Robert screwed in his cheek. 

* Well, yes, I do,' he said. ' Only it makes me feel 
thirsty, that 's all.' 

The farmer remembered this when they had entered 
the farm. 

* Our beer 's so poor, Robert,' he made apology ; 

* but Rhoda shall get you some for you to try, if 
you like. Rhoda, Robert 's solemn thirsty.' 

155 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER * Shall I?' said Rhoda, and she stood awaiting his 
AvStto bidding. 
Wrexby Hall < I *m not a thirsty subject,' replied Robert. * You 
know I 've avoided drink of any kind since I set foot 
on this floor. But when I drink,' he pitched his voice 
to a hard, sparkling heartiness, ' I drink a lot, and the 
stuff must be strong. I 'm very much obliged to you. 
Miss Rhoda, for what you 're so kind as to offer to 
satisfy my thirst, and you can't give better, and don't 
suppose that I 'm complaining ; but your father 's 
right, it is rather weak, and wouldn't break the tooth 
of my thirst if I drank at it till Gammon left off 
thinking about his dinner.' 

With that he announced his approaching departure. 

The farmer dropped into his fireside chair, dumb 
and spiritless. A shadow was over the house, and 
the inhabitants moved about their domestic occupa- 
tions silent as things that feel the thunder-cloud. 
Before sunset Robert was gone on his long walk to 
the station, and Rhoda felt a woman's great envy of 
the liberty of a man, who has not, if it pleases him 
not, to sit and eat grief among familiar images, in a 
home that furnishes its altar-flame. 



CHAPTER XVI 
At Fairly Park 

Fairly, Lord Filing's seat in Hampshire, lay over the 
Warbeach river ; a white mansion among great oaks, 
in view of the summer sails and winter masts of the 
yachting squadron. The house was ruled, during the 
156 



RHODA FLEMING 

congregation of the Christmas guests, by charming chapter 
Mrs. Lovell, who relieved the invalid Ladv of the ^^^ 

, - ^ ' "^ ^ At Fairly PmIi 

house of the many serious cares attending the recep- 
tion of visitors, and did it all with ease. Under her 
sovereignty the place was delightful, and if it was 
by repute pleasanter to young men than to any other 
class, it will be admitted that she satisfied those who 
are loudest in giving tongue to praise. 

Edward and Algernon journeyed down to Fairly to- 
gether, after the confidence which the astute young 
lawyer had been compelled to repose in his cousin. 
Sir William Blancove was to be at Fairly, and it was 
at his father's pointed request that Edward had ac- 
cepted Mrs. Loveirs invitation. Half in doubt as to 
the lady's disposition toward him, Edward eased his 
heart with sneers at the soft, sanguinary gracious- 
ness they were to expect, and racked mythology for 
spiteful comparisons ; while Algernon vehemently de- 
fended her with a battering fire of British adjectives 
in superlative. He as much as hinted, tinder instiga- 
tion, that he was entitled to defend her ; and his claim 
being by-and-by yawningly allowed by Edward, and 
presuming that he now had Edward in his power 
and need not fear him, he exhibited his weakness in 
the guise of a costly gem, that he intended to present 
to Mrs. Lovell — an opal set in a cross pendant from 
a necklace ; a really fine opal, coquetting with the 
lights of every gem that is known: it shot succinct 
red flashes, and green, and yellow; the emerald, the 
amethyst, the topaz lived in it, and a remote ruby; 
it was veined with lightning hues, and at times it 
slept in a milky cloud, innocent of fire, quite maiden- 
like. 

157 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER ' That will suit her,' was Edward's remark. 
At Fairly Park *^ didn't want to get anything common,* said Al- 
gernon, making the gem play before his eyes. 

* A pretty stone,' said Edward. 

* Do you think so ? ' • 

* Very pretty indeed.' 

* Harlequin pattern.' 

* To be presented to Columbine ! ' 

'The Harlequin pattern is of the best sort, you 
know. Perhaps you like the watery ones best ? This 
is fresh from Russia. There's a set I've my eye 
on. I shall complete it in time. I want Peggy Lovell 
to wear the j oiliest opals in the world. It's rather 
nice, isn't it ? ' 

* It 's a splendid opal,' said Edward. 

* She likes opals,' said Algernon. 

* She '11 take your meaning at once,' said Edward. 

* How ? I '11 be hanged if I know what my meaning 
is, Ned.' 

'Don't you know the signification of your gift?' 

'Not a bit.' 

' Oh ! you '11 be Oriental when you present it.' 

' The deuce I shall ! ' 

' It means, " You 're the prettiest widow in the 
world." ' 

' So she is. I '11 be right there, old boy.' 

'And, "You're a rank, right-down widow, and no 
mistake ; you 're everything to everybody ; not half 
so innocent as you look: you're green as jealousy, 
red as murder, yellow as jaundice, and put on the 
whiteness of a virgin when you ought to be blushing 
like a penitent." In short, "You have no heart of 
your own, and you pretend to possess half a dozen : 
158 



RHODA FLEMING 

you're devoid of one steady beam, and play tricks chapter 

XVI 

with every scale of colour: you're an arrant widow, ^^p^jj.jyp^j.^ 
and that 's what you are." An eloquent gift, Algy.' 

* *Gad, if it means all that, it '11 be rather creditable 
to me,' said Algernon. * Do opals mean widows ? ' 

* Of course,' was the answer. 

* Well, she is a widow, and I suppose she 's going 
to remain one, for she 's had lots of offers. If I marry 
a girl I shall never like her half as much as Peggy 
Lovell. She's done me up for every other woman 
living. She never lets me feel a fool with her; and 
she has a way, by Jove, of looking at me, and letting 
me know she's up to my thoughts and isn't angry. 
What 's the use of my thinking of her at all ? She 'd 
never go to the Colonies, and live in a log hut and 
make cheeses, while I tore about on horseback gather- 
ing cattle.' 

*I don't think she would,' observed Edward em- 
phatically ; * I don't think she would.' 

*And I shall never have money. Confound stingy 
parents ! It 's a question whether I shall get Wrexby : 
there 's no entail. I 'm heir to the governor's temper 
and his gout, I dare say. He '11 do as he likes with 
the estate. I call it beastly unfair.' 

Edward asked how much the opal had cost. 

* Oh, nothing,' said Algernon ; * that is, I never pay 
for jewellery.' 

Edward was curious to know how he managed to 
obtain it. 

* Why, you see,' Algernon explained, * they, the 
jewellers — I've got two or three in hand — the fellows 
are acquainted with my position, and they speculate 
on my expectations. There is no harm in that if they 

159 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER like it. I look at their trinkets, and say, "IVe no 
AtFafrTyPark ^oncy " ; and they say, "Never mind"; and I don't 
mind much. The understanding is, that I pay them 
when I inherit.' 

* In gout and bad temper ? ' 

* 'Gad, if I inherit nothing else, they '11 have lots of 
that for indemnification. It's a good system, Ned; 
it enables a young fellow like me to got through the 
best years of his life — which I take to be his youth — 
without that squalid poverty bothering him. You can 
make presents, and wear a pin or a ring, if it takes 
your eye. You look well, and you make yourself 
agreeable ; and I see nothing to complain of in that.' 

* The jewellers, then, have established an institution 
to correct one of the errors of Providence.' 

* Oh ! put it in your long-winded way, if you like,' 
said Algernon ; * all I know is, that I should often 
have wanted a five pound note, if — that is, if I hadn't 
happened to be dressed like a gentleman. With your 
prospects, Ned, I should propose to charming Peggy 
to-morrow morning early. We mustn't let her go 
out of the family. If I can't have her, I 'd rather you 
would.' 

*You forget the incumbrances on one side,' said 
Edward, his face darkening. 

* Oh ! that 's all to be managed,' Algernon rallied 
him. ' Why, Ned, you '11 have twenty thousand a-year, 
if you have a penny ; and you '11 go into Parliament, 
and give dinners, and a woman like Peggy Lovell 'd 
intrigue for you like the deuce.' 

< A great deal too like,' Edward muttered. 
*As for that pretty girl,' continued Algernon; but 
Edward peremptorily stopped all speech regarding 
160 



RHODA FLEMING 

Dahlia. His desire was, while he made holiday, to chapter 

XVI 

shut the past behind a brazen gate; which being com- ^t Fairly Park 
municated sympathetically to his cousin, the latter 
chimed to it in boisterous shouts of anticipated care- 
less jollity at Fairly Park, crying out how they would 
hunt and snap fingers at Jews, and all mortal sorrows, 
and have a fortnight, or three weeks, perhaps a full 
month, of the finest life possible to man, with good 
horses, good dinners, good wines, good society, at 
command, and a queen of a woman to rule and order 
everything. Edward affected a disdainful smile at the 
prospect ; but was in reality the weaker of the two in 
his thirst for it. 

They arrived at Fairly in time to dress for dinner, 
and in the drawing-room Mrs. Lovell sat to receive 
them. She looked up to Edward's face an impercep- 
tible half-second longer than the ordinary form of 
welcome accords — one of the looks which are nothing 
at all when there is no spiritual apprehension between 
young people, and are so much when there is. To 
Algernon, who was gazing opals on her, she simply 
gave her fingers. At her right hand was Sir John 
Capes, her antique devotee ; a pure milky-white old 
gentleman, with sparkling fingers, who played Apollo 
to his Daphne, and was out of breath. Lord Suckling, 
a boy with a boisterous constitution, and a guardsman, 
had his place near her left hand, as if ready to seize 
it at the first whisper of encouragement or opportunity. 
A very little lady of seventeen, Miss Adeline Gosling, 
trembling with shyness under a cover of demureness, 
fell to Edward's lot to conduct down to dinner, where 
he neglected her disgracefully. His father. Sir William, 
was present at the table, and Lord Filing, with whom 
9— L 161 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER he was in repute as a talker and a wit. Quickened 
AtFafrTyPark ^^*^ ^^® host*s renowned good wine (and the bare 
renown of a wine is inspiriting), Edward pressed to 
be'^brilliant. He had an epigrammatic turn, and though 
his mind was prosaic when it ran alone, he could appear 
inventive and fanciful with the rub of other minds. 
Now, at a table where good talking is cared for, the 
triumphs of the excelling tongue are not for a moment 
to be despised, even by the huge appetite of the monster 
Vanity. For a year, Edward had abjured this feast. 
Before the birds appeared and the champagne had 
ceased to make its circle, he felt that he was now at 
home again, and that the term of his wandering away 
from society was one of folly. He felt the joy and 
vigour of a creature returned to his element. Why 
had he ever quitted it ? Already he looked back upon 
Dahlia from a prodigious distance. He knew that 
there was something to be smoothed over ; something 
written in the book of facts which had to be smeared 
out, and he seemed to do it, while he drank the babbling 
wine and heard himself talk. Not one man at that 
table, as he reflected, would consider the bond which 
held him in any serious degree binding. A lady is one 
thing, and a girl of the class Dahlia had sprung from 
altogether another. He could not help imagining the 
sort of appearance she would make there ; and the 
thought even was a momentary clog upon his tongue. 
How he used to despise these people ! Especially he 
had despised the young men as brainless cowards in 
regard to their views of women and conduct toward 
them. All that was changed. He fancied now that 
they, on the contrary, would despise him, if only they 
could be aware of the lingering sense he entertained 
162 



RHODA FLEMING 

of his being in bondage under a sacred obligation to chapter 

XVI 
At Fairly Park 



a farmer's daughter. ^^^ 



But he had one thing to discover, and that was, why- 
Sir William had made it a peculiar request that he 
should come to meet him here. Could the desire 
possibly be to reconcile him with Mrs. Lovell ? His 
common sense rejected the idea at once. Sir William 
boasted of her wit and tact, and admired her beauty, 
but Edward remembered his having responded tacitly 
to his estimate of her character, and Sir William was 
not the man to court the alliance of his son with a 
woman like Mrs. Lovell. He perceived that his father 
and the fair widow frequently took counsel together. 
Edward laughed at the notion that the grave senior 
had himself become fascinated, but without utterly 
scouting it, until he found that the little lady whom 
he had led to dinner the first day, was an heiress; 
and from that, and other indications, he exactly divined 
the nature of his father's provident wishes. But this 
revelation rendered Mrs. Lovell's behaviour yet more 
extraordinary. Could it be credited that she was 
abetting Sir William's schemes with all her woman's 
craft? 'Has she,' thought Edward, * become so in- 
different to me as to care for my welfare ? ' He 
determined to put her to the test. He made love to 
Adeline Gosling. Nothing that he did disturbed the 
impenetrable complacency of Mrs. Lovell. She threw 
them together as she shuffled the guests. She really 
seemed to him quite indifferent enough to care for 
his welfare. It was a point in the mysterious ways 
of women, or of widows, that Edward's experience had 
not yet come across. All the parties immediately 
concerned were apparently so desperately acquiescing 

163 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER in his suit, that he soon grew uneasy. Mrs. Lovell 

XVI 

At Fairly Park ^^* ^^^y shufflcd him into placcs with the raw heiress, 
but with the child's mother ; of whom he spoke to 
Algernon as of one too strongly breathing of matri- 
mony to appease the cravings of an eclectic mind. 

'Make the path clear for me, then/ said Algernon, 
* if you don't like the girl. Pitch her tales about me. 
Say, I've got a lot in me, though I don't let it out. 
The game 's up between you and Peggy Lovell, that 's 
clear. She don't forgive you, my boy.' 

* Ass ! ' muttered Edward, seeing by the light of his 
perception, that he was too thoroughly forgiven. 

A principal charm of the life at Fairly to him was 
that there was no one complaining. No one looked 
reproach at him. If a lady was pale and reserved, she 
did not seem to accuse him, and to require coaxing. 
All faces here were as light as the flying moment, and 
did not carry the shadowy weariness of years, like 
that burdensome fair face in the London lodging-house, 
to which the Fates had terribly attached themselves. 
So, he was gay. He closed, as it were, a black volume, 
and opened a new and a bright one. Young men easily 
fancy that they may do this, and that when the black 
volume is shut the tide is stopped. Saying, * I was a 
fool,' they believe they have put an end to the foolish- 
ness. What father teaches them that a human act 
once set in motion flows on for ever to the great 
account? Our deathlessness is in what we do, not 
in what we are. Comfortable Youth thinks other- 
wise. 

The days at a well-ordered country-house, where a 
divining lady rules, speed to the measure of a waltz, 
in harmonious circles, dropping like crystals into the 
164 



RHODA FLEMING 

gulfs of Time, and appearing to write nothing in his chapter 

book. Not a single hinge of existence is heard to ^^^^^^.yyp^^^ 

creak. There is no after-dinner bill. You are waited 

on, without being elbowed by the humanity of your 

attendants. It is a civilized Arcadia. Only, do not 

desire, that you may not envy. Accept humbly what 

rights of citizenship are accorded to you upon entering. 

Discard the passions when you cross the threshold. 

To breathe and to swallow merely, are the duties 

which should prescribe your conduct ; or, such is 

the swollen condition of the animal in this enchanted 

region, that the spirit of man becomes dangerously 

beset. 

Edward breathed and swallowed, and never went 
beyond the prescription, save by talking. No other 
junior could enter the library, without encountering 
the scorn of his elders; so he enjoyed the privilege 
of hearing all the scandal, and his natural cynicism 
was plentifully fed. It was more of a school to him 
than he knew. 

These veterans, in their arm-chairs, stripped the 
bloom from life, and showed it to be bare bones. 
They took their wisdom for an experience of the 
past: they were but giving their sensations in the 
present. Not to perceive this, is Youth's error when 
it hears old gentlemen talking at their ease. 

On the third morning of their stay at Fairly, 
Algernon came into Edward's room with a letter in 
his hand. 

< There ! read that ! ' he said. * It isn't ill-luck ; it 's 
infernal persecution ! What, on earth ! — why, I took 
a close cab to the station. You saw me get out of 
it. I '11 swear no creditor of mine knew I was leaving 

165 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER London. My belief is that the fellows who give credit 

XVI 

At Fairly Park ^^^e spies about at every railway terminus in the 
kingdom. They won't give me three days' peace. 
It 's enough to disgust any man with civilized life ; 
on my soul, it is ! ' 

Edward glanced at the superscription of the letter. 
*Not posted/ he remarked. 

* No ; delivered by some confounded bailiff, who 's 
been hounding me.' 

* Bailiffs don't generally deal in warnings.' 

* JVill you read it ! ' Algernon shouted. 
The letter ran thus : 

' Mr. Algernon Blancove ; 

*The writer of this intends taking the first oppor- 
tunity of meeting you, and gives you warning, you 
will have to answer his question with a Yes or a No ; 
and speak from your conscience. The respectfulness 
of his behaviour to you as a gentleman will depend 
upon that.' 

Algernon followed his cousin's eye down to the last 
letter in the page. 

* What do you think of it ? ' he asked eagerly. 
Edward's broad thin-lined brows were drawn down 

in gloom. Mastering some black meditation in his 
brain, he answered Algernon's yells for an opinion : — 

<I think — well, I think bailiffs have improved in 
their manners, and show you they are determined 
to belong to the social march in an age of universal 
progress. Nothing can be more comforting.' 

*But, suppose this fellow comes across me?' 

< Don't know him.' 
166 



RHODA FLEMING 

< Suppose he insists on knowing me ? ' chapter 

* Don't know yourself.' At Fairly Park 

* Yes ; but hang it ! if he catches hold of me ? * 

* Shake him off.' 

* Suppose he won't let go ? ' 

* Cut him with your horsewhip.' 

* You think it 's about a debt, then ? ' 

* Intimidation, evidently.' 

*I shall announce to him that the great Edward 
Blancove is not to be intimidated. You'll let me 
borrow your name, old Ned. I've stood by you in 
my time. As for leaving Fairly, I tell you I can't. 
It 's too delightful to be near Peggy Lovell.' 

Edward smiled with a peculiar friendliness, and 
Algernon went off, very well contented with his 
cousin. 



CHAPTER XVII 
A Yeoman of the Old Breed 

Within a mile of Fairly Park lay the farm of another 
yeoman ; but he was of another character. The 
Hampshireman was a farmer of renown in his pro- 
fession; fifth of a family that had cultivated a small 
domain of one hundred and seventy acres with sterling 
profit, and in a style to make Sutton the model of a 
perfect farm throughout the country. Royal eyes had 
inspected his pigs approvingly ; Royal wits had taken 
hints from Jonathan Eccles in matters agricultural ; 
and it was his comforting joke that he had taught his 
Prince good breeding. In return for the service, his 

167 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Prince had transformed a lusty Radical into a devoted 
A Yeoman of ^oy^list. Framed on the walls of his parlours were 
theoidBreed letters from his Prince, thanking him for specimen 
seeds and worthy counsel : veritable autograph letters 
of the highest value. The Prince had steamed up 
the salt river, upon which the Sutton harvests were 
mirrored, and landed on a spot marked in honour of 
the event by a broad grey stone; and from that day 
Jonathan Eccles stood on a pinnacle of pride, enabling 
him to see horizons of despondency hitherto unknown 
to him. For he had a son, and the son was a riotous 
devil, a most wild young fellow, who had no taste for 
a farmer's life, and openly declared his determination 
not to perpetuate the Sutton farm in the hands of 
the Eccles's, by running off one day and entering the 
ranks of the British army. 

Those framed letters became melancholy objects 
for contemplation, when Jonathan thought that no 
posterity of his would point them out gloryingly in 
emulation. Man's aim is to culminate; but it is the 
saddest thing in the world to feel that we have accom- 
plished it. Mr. Eccles shrugged with all the philosophy 
he could summon, and transferred his private dis- 
appointment to his country, whose agricultural day 
was, he said, doomed. *We shall be beaten by those 
Yankees.' He gave Old England twenty years of 
continued pre-eminence (due to the impetus of the 
present generation of Englishmen), and then, said he, 
the Yankees will flood the market. No more green 
pastures in Great Britain ; no pretty clean-footed 
animals ; no yellow harvests ; but huge chimney pots 
everywhere ; black earth under black vapour, and 
smoke-begrimed faces. In twenty years' time, sooty 
168 



RHODA FLEMING 

England was to be a gigantic manufactory, until the chapter 
Yankees beat us out of that field as well; beyond ^ Yeoman of 
which Jonathan Eccles did not care to spread any the oid Breed 
distinct border of prophecy ; merely thanking the 
Lord that he should then be under grass. The decay 
of our glory was to be edged with blood; Jonathan 
admitted that there would be stuff in the fallen race 
to deliver a sturdy fight before they went to their 
doom. 

For this prodigious curse, England had to thank 
young Robert, the erratic son of Jonathan. 

It was now two years since Robert had inherited 
a small legacy of money from an aunt, and spent it 
in waste, as the farmer bitterly supposed. He was 
looking at some immense seed-melons in his garden, 
lying about in morning sunshine — a new feed for 
sheep, of his own invention, — when the call of the 
wanderer saluted his ears, and he beheld his son 
Robert at the gate. 

*Here I am, sir,' Robert sang out from the exterior. 

* Stay there, then,' was his welcome. 

They were alike in their build and in their manner 
of speech. The accost and the reply sounded like 
reports from the same pistol. The old man was tall, 
broad-shouldered, and muscular — a grey edition of the 
son, upon whose disorderly attire he cast a glance, 
while speaking, with settled disgust. Robert's neck- 
tie streamed loose ; his hair was uncombed ; a hand- 
kerchief dangled from his pocket. He had the look of 
the prodigal, returned with impudence for his portion 
instead of repentance. 

*I can't see how you are, sir, from this distance,' 
said Robert, boldly assuming his privilege to enter. 

169 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER * Are you drunk ? ' Jonathan asked, as Robert marched 

AYe^Ianof Up tO him. 

the Old Breed < Givc me your hand, sir.' 

* Give me an answer first. Are you drunk ?' 
Robert tried to force the complacent aspect of a 

mind unabashed, but felt that he made a stupid show- 
before that clear-headed, virtuously-living old man of 
iron nerves. The alternative to flying into a passion 
was the looking like a fool. 

* Come, father,* he said, with a miserable snigger, 
like a yokel's smile ; ' here I am at last. I don't say, 
kill the fatted calf, and take a lesson from Scripture, 
but give me your hand. I 've done no man harm but 
myself — damned if I 've done a mean thing anywhere ! 
and there's no shame to you in shaking your son's 
hand after a long absence.' 

Jonathan Eccles kept both hands firmly in his 
pockets. 

'Are you drunk?' he repeated. 

Robert controlled himself to answer, * I 'm not.' 

* Well, then, just tell me when you were drunk last.' 

* This is a pleasant fatherly greeting ! ' Robert 
interjected. 

*You get no good by fighting shy of a simple 
question, Mr. Bob,' said Jonathan. 

Robert cried querulously, * I don't want to fight shy 
of a simple question.' 

* Well, then ; when were you drunk last ? answer 
me that.' 

*Last night.' 

Jonathan drew his hand from his pocket to thump 
his leg. 

* I 'd have sworn it ! ' 
170 



RHODA FLEMING 

All Robert's assurance had vanished in a minute, and chapter 
he stood like a convicted culprit before his father. ^ ve^man of 

'You know, sir, I don't tell lies. I was drunk last the oid Breed 
night. I couldn't help it.' 

* No more could the little boy.' 

* I was drunk last night. Say, I 'm a beast.' 

* I sha'n't ! ' exclaimed Jonathan, making his voice 
sound as a defence to this vile charge against the 
brutish character. 

* Say, I 'm worse than a beast, then,' cried Robert, in 
exasperation. * Take my word that it hasn't happened 
to me to be in that state for a year and more. Last 
night I was mad. I can't give you any reasons. I 
thought I was cured; but I've trouble in my mind, 
and a tide swims you over the shallows — so I felt. 
Come, sir — father, don't make me mad again.' 

* Where did you get the liquor ? ' inquired Jonathan. 

* I drank at "The Pilot."' 

*Ha! there's talk there of "that damned old Eccles " 
for a month to come — "the unnatural parent." How 
long have you been down here ? ' 

* Eight and twenty hours.' 

* Eight and twenty hours. When are you going ? ' 

* I want lodging for a night.' 
*What else?' 

* The loan of a horse that '11 take a fence.* 
< Go on.' 

* And twenty pounds.' 

* Oh ! ' said Jonathan. * If farming came as easy to 
you as face, you'd be a prime agriculturalist. Just 
what I thought ! What 's become of that money your 
aunt Jane was fool enough to bequeath to you ? ' 

* I 've spent it.' 

171 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER < Are you a Deserter ? ' 
A Yeoman of ^^^ ^ moment Robert stood as if listening, and 
the Old Breed then white grew his face, and he swayed and struck 
his hands together. His recent intoxication had 
unmanned him. 

* Go in — go in,' said his father in some concern, 
though wrath was predominant. 

* Oh, make your mind quiet about me.' Robert 
dropped his arms. * I 'm weakened somehow — damned 
weak. I am — I feel like a woman when my father 
asks me if I Ve been guilty of villany. Desert ? I 
wouldn't desert from the hulks. Hear the worst, and 
this is the worst : I Ve got no money — I don't owe 
a penny, but I haven't got one.' 

* And I won't give you one,' Jonathan appended ; and 
they stood facing one another in silence. 

A squeaky voice was heard from the other side of 
the garden hedge of clipped yew. 

* Hi ! farmer, is that the missing young man ? ' and 
presently a neighbour, by name John Sedgett, came 
trotting through the gate, and up the garden path. 

* I say,' he remarked, * here 's a rumpus. Here 's a 
bobbery up at Fairly. Oh ! Bob Eccles ! Bob Eccles ! 
At it again ! ' 

Mr. Sedgett shook his wallet of gossip with an enjoy- 
ing chuckle. He was a thin-faced creature, rheumy of 
eye, and drawing his breath as from a well ; the ferret 
of the village for all underlying scandal and tattle, 
whose sole humanity was what he called pitifully * a 
peakin' at his chest, and who had retired from his 
business of grocer in the village upon the fortune 
brought to him in the energy and capacity of a third 
wife to conduct affairs, while he wandered up and 
172 



RHODA FLEMING 

down and knitted people together — an estimable office chapter 
in a land where your house is so grievously your ^Ye^manof 

castle. theOldBreed 

* What the devil have you got in you now ? * Jonathan 
cried out to him. 

Mr. Sedgett was seized by his complaint and de- 
manded commiseration, but recovering, he chuckled 
again. 

* Oh, Bob Eccles ! Don't you never grow older ? And 
the first day down among us again, too. Why, Bob, 
as a military man, you ought to acknowledge your 
superiors. Why, Stephen Bilton, the huntsman, says, 
Bob, you pulled the young gentleman off his horse — 
you on foot, and him mounted. I 'd ha' given pounds 
to be there. And ladies present ! Lord help us ! I 'm 
glad you're returned, though. These melons of the 
farmer's, they 're a wonderful invention ; people are 
speaking of 'em right and left, and says, says they. 
Farmer Eccles, he 's best farmer going — Hampshire 
ought to be proud of him — he's worth two of any 
others : that they are fine ones ! And you 're come back 
to keep 'em up, eh. Bob ? Are ye, though, my man ? ' 

* Well, here I am, Mr. Sedgett,' said Robert, * and 
talking to my father.' 

* Oh ! I wouldn't be here to interrupt ye for the 
world.' Mr. Sedgett made a show of retiring, but 
Jonathan insisted upon his disburdening himself of 
his tale, saying : * Damn your raw beginnings, Sedgett ! 
What 's been up ? Nobody can hurt me.' 

* That they can't, neighbour ; nor Bob neither, as far 
as stand-up man to man go. I give him three to one 
— Bob Eccles ! He took 'em when a boy. He may, 
you know, he may have the law agin him, and by 

173 




rCii 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Gearge ! if he do — why, a man 's no match for the law. 

XVII 

A Yeoman of ^^ ^^® beiii' a hero to the law. The law masters every 
theoidBreed man alive ; and there's law in everything, neighbour 
Eccles ; eh, sir ? Your friend, the Prince, owns to it, 
as much as you or me. But, of course, you know 
what Bob 's been doing. What I dropped in to ask 
was, why did ye do it, Bob ? Why pull the young 
gentleman off his horse ? I 'd ha' given pounds to be 
there ! ' 

'Pounds o' tallow candles don't amount to much,' 
quoth Robert. 

'That's awful bad brandy at the "Pilot,"' said Mr. 
Sedgett venomously. 

* Were you drunk when you committed this assault ? ' 
Jonathan asked his son. 

' I drank afterwards,' Robert replied. 

* " Pilot " brandy 's poor consolation,' remarked Mr. 
Sedgett. 

Jonathan had half a mind to turn his son out of the 
gate, but the presence of Sedgett advised him that his 
doings were naked to the world. 

* You kicked up a shindy in the hunting-field — what 
about ? Who mounted ye ? ' 

Robert remarked that he had been on foot. 

* On foot — eh ? on foot ! ' Jonathan speculated, un- 
able to realize the image of his son as a foot-man in 
the hunting-field, or to comprehend the insolence of a 
pedestrian who should dare to attack a mounted hunts- 
man. * You were on foot ? The devil you were on 
foot ! Foot ? And caught a man out of his saddle ? ' 

Jonathan gave up the puzzle. He laid out his fore- 
finger decisively : — 

' If it 's an assault, mind, you stand damages. My 
174 



RHODA FLEMING 

land gives and my land takes my money, and no chapter 
drunken dog lives on the produce. A row in the AYe^Ianof 
hunting-field 's un-English, I call it.* theoidBreed 

* So it is, sir,' said Robert. 

* So it be, neighbour,' said Mr. Sedgett. 
Whereupon Robert took his arm, and holding the 

scraggy wretch forward, commanded him to out with 
what he knew. 

< Oh, I don't know no more than what I 've told you.' 
Mr. Sedgett twisted a feeble remonstrance of his bones, 
that were chiefly his being, at the gripe ; * except that 
you got hold the horse by the bridle, and wouldn't let 
him go, because the young gentleman wouldn't speak 
as a gentleman, and — oh ! don't squeeze so hard : ' 

' Out with it ! ' cried Robert. 

* And you said, Steeve Bilton said, you said — " Where 
is she ? " you said, and he swore, and you swore, and 
a lady rode up, and you pulled, and she sang out, and 
off went the gentleman, and Steeve said she said, " For 
shame." ' 

* And it was the truest word spoken that day ! ' 
Robert released him. *You don't know much, Mr. 
Sedgett; but it's enough to make me explain the 
cause to my father, and, with your leave, I '11 do so.' 

Mr. Sedgett remarked : * By all means, do ' ; and 
rather preferred that his wits should be accused of 
want of brightness, than that he should miss a chance 
of hearing the rich history of the scandal and its origin. 
Something stronger than a hint sent him off at a trot, 
hugging in his elbows. 

* The postman won't do his business quicker than 
Sedgett '11 tap this tale upon every door in the parish,' 
said Jonathan. 

175 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER *I can only say I'm sorry, for your sake'; Robert 
A Yeoman of ^^^ exprcssing his contrition, when his father caught 

the Old Breed him Up I 

* Who can hurt me ? — my sake ? Have I got the 
habits of a sot ? — what you 'd call " a beast ! " but I 
know the ways o' beasts, and if you did too, you 
wouldn't bring them in to bear your beastly sins. 
Who can hurt me ? — You 've been quarrelling with this 
young gentleman about a woman — did you damage 
him?' 

< If knuckles could do it, I should have brained him, 
sir,' said Robert. 

< You struck him, and you got the best of it ? ' 

* He got the worst of it any way, and will again.' 

* Then the devil take you for a fool ! why did you 
go and drink ? I could understand it if you got licked. 
Drown your memory then, if that filthy soaking 's to 
your taste ; but why, when you get the prize, we '11 
say, you go off headlong into a manure pond ? — there ! 
except that you 're a damned idiot ! ' Jonathan struck 
the air, as to observe that it beat him, but for the fore- 
going elucidation : thundering afresh, * Why did you 
go and drink ? ' 

* I went, sir, I went — why did I go ? ' Robert slapped 
his hand despairingly to his forehead. * What on earth 
did I go for ? — because I 'm at sea, I suppose. Nobody 
cares for me. I 'm at sea, and no rudder to steer me. 
I suppose that 's it. So, I drank. I thought it best to 
take spirits on board. No ; this was the reason — I re- 
member : that lady, whoever she was, said something 
that stung me. I held the fellow under her eyes, and 
shook him, though she was begging me to let him off. 
Says she — but I 've drunk it clean out of my mind.' 

170 



RHODA FLEMING 

* There, go in and look at yourself in the glass,' said chapter 

JOnatnan. a Yeoman of 

*Give me your hand first,' — Robert put his own out theoidBreed 
humbly. 

< I '11 be hanged if I do,' said Jonathan firmly. * Bed 
and board you shall have while I'm alive, and a 
glass to look at yourself in ; but my hand 's for 
decent beasts. Move one way or t' other : take your 
choice.' 

Seeing Robert hesitate, he added, 'I shall have a 
damned deal more respect for you if you toddle.' He 
waved his hand away from the premises. 

* I 'm sorry you 've taken so to swearing of late, 
sir,' said Robert. 

'Two flints strike fire, my lad. When you keep 
distant, I 'm quiet enough in my talk to satisfy your 
aunt Anne.' 

* Look here, sir ; I want to make use of you, so I '11 
go in.' 

* Of course you do,' returned Jonathan, not a whit 
displeased by his son's bluntness; 'what else is a 
father good for ? I let you know the limit, and that 's 
a brick wall; jump it, if you can. Don't fancy it's 
your aunt Jane you 're going in to meet.' 

Robert had never been a favourite with his aunt 
Anne, who was Jonathan's housekeeper. 

* No, poor old soul ! and may God bless her in 
heaven ! ' he cried. 

' For leaving you what you turned into a thunder- 
ing lot of liquor to consume — eh ? ' 

' For doing all in her power to make a man of me ; 
and she was close on it — kind, good old darling, that 
she was ! She got me with that money of hers to the 
9— M 177 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER best footing I 've been on yet — bless her heart, or her 
A Yeoman of ^lemory, or whatever a poor devil on earth may bless 
theoidBreed an angel for ! But here I am.' 

The fever in Robert blazed out under a pressure of 
extinguishing tears. 

* There, go along in,' said Jonathan, who considered 
drunkenness to be the main source of water in a man's 
eyes. * It 's my belief you 've been at it already this 
morning.' 

Robert passed into the house in advance of his 
father, whom he quite understood and appreciated. 
There was plenty of paternal love for him, and a 
hearty smack of the hand, and the inheritance of the 
farm, when he turned into the right way. Meantime 
Jonathan was ready to fulfil his parental responsi- 
bility, by sheltering, feeding, and not publicly abusing 
his offspring, of whose spirit he would have had a 
higher opinion if Robert had preferred, since he must 
go to the deuce, to go without troubling any of his 
relatives; as it was, Jonathan submitted to the in- 
fliction gravely. Neither in speech nor in tone did he 
solicit from the severe maiden, known as Aunt Anne, 
that snub for the wanderer whom he introduced, which, 
when two are agreed upon the infamous character of 
a third, through whom they are suffering, it is always 
agreeable to hear. He said, ' Here, Anne ; here 's 
Robert. He hasn't breakfasted.' 

*He likes his cold bath beforehand,' said Robert, 
presenting his cheek to the fleshless, semi-transparent 
woman. 

Aunt Anne divided her lips to pronounce a crisp, sub- 
dued * Ow ! ' to Jonathan after inspecting Robert ; and 
she shuddered at sight of Robert, and said * Ow ! » 
178 



RHODA FLEMING 

repeatedly, by way of an interjectory token of com- chapter 
prehension, to all that was uttered ; but it was a ^ Yeoman of 
horrified *No! ' when Robert's cheek pushed nearer. theoidBreed 

* Then, see to getting some breakfast for him,' said 
Jonathan. < You 're not anyway bound to kiss a 
drunken ' 

* Dog 's the word, sir,' Robert helped him. * Dogs 
can afford it. I never saw one in that state ; so they 
don't lose character.' 

He spoke lightly, but dejection was in his attitude. 
When his aunt Anne had left the room, he exclaimed : 

* By jingo ! women make you feel it, by some way 
that they have. She 's a religious creature. She 
smells the devil in me.' 

* More like, the brandy,' his father responded. 

* Well ! I'm on the road : I 'm on the road ! ' Robert 
fetched a sigh. 

* I didn't make the road,' said his father. 

*No, sir; you didn't. Work hard: sleep sound" 
that 's happiness. I 've known it for a year. You 're 
the man I 'd imitate, if I could. The devil came first : 
the brandy's secondary. I was quiet so long. I 
thought myself a safe man.' 

He sat down and sent his hair distraught with an 
effort at smoothing it. • 

* Women brought the devil into the world first. 
It 's women who raise the devil in us, and why 
they ?' 

He thumped the table just as his aunt Anne was 
preparing to spread the cloth. 

* Don't be frightened, woman,' said Jonathan, seeing 
her start fearfully back. * You take too many cups of 
tea, morning and night — hang the stuff! ' 

179 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER * Never, never till now have you abused me, Jona- 

A Ye^Ian of *^^^>' ^^^ Whimpered severely. 

theoidBreed «I don't tell you to love him; but wait on him. 

That's all. And I'll about my business. Land and 

beasts — they answer to you.' 
Robert looked up. 

* Land and beasts ! They sound like blessed things. 
When next I go to church, I shall know what old 
Adam felt. Go along, sir. I shall break nothing in 
the house.' 

*You won't go, Jonathan?' begged the trembling 
spinster. 

* Give him some of your tea, and strong, and as 
much of it as he can take — he wants bringing down,' 
was Jonathan's answer; and casting a glance at one 
of the framed letters, he strode through the doorway, 
and Aunt Anne was alone with the flushed face and 
hurried eyes of her nephew, who was to her little 
better than a demon in the flesh. But there was a 
Bible in the room. 

An hour later, Robert was mounted and riding to 
the meet of hounds. 



CHAPTER XVIII 
An Assembly at the Pilot Inn 

A single night at the Pilot Inn had given life and 
vigour to Robert's old reputation in Warbeach village, 
as the stoutest of drinkers and dear rascals through- 
out a sailor-breeding district, where Dibdin was still 
thundered in the ale-house, and manhood in a great 
180 



RHODA FLEMING 

degree measured by the capacity to take liquor on chapter 
board, as a ship takes ballast. There was a profound j^^ Assembly 
affectation of deploring the sad fact that he drank at the puot inn 
as hard as ever, among the men, and genuine pity 
expressed for him by the women of Warbeach; but 
his fame was fresh again. As the Spring brings back 
its flowers, Robert's presence revived his youthful 
deeds. There had not been a boxer in the neighbour- 
hood like Robert Eccles, nor such a champion in 
all games, nor, when he set himself to it, such an 
invincible drinker. It was he who thrashed the brute, 
Nic Sedgett, for stabbing with his clasp-knife Harry 
Boulby, son of the landlady of the Pilot Inn ; thrashed 
him publicly, to the comfort of all Warbeach. He had 
rescued old Dame Garble from her burning cottage, 
and made his father house the old creature, and worked 
at farming, though he hated it, to pay for her sub- 
sistence. He vindicated the honour of Warbeach by 
drinking a match against a Yorkshire skipper till four 
o'clock in the morning, when it was a gallant sight, 
my boys, to see Hampshire steadying the defeated 
North-countryman on his astonished zigzag to his 
flattish-bottomed billyboy, all in the cheery sunrise 
on the river — yo-ho ! ahoy ! 

Glorious Robert had tried, first the sea, and then 
soldiering. Now let us hope he'll settle to farming, 
and follow his rare old father's ways, and be back 
among his own people for good. So chimed the 
younger ones, and many of the elder. 

Danish blood had settled round Warbeach. To be 
a really popular hero anywhere in Britain, a lad must 
still, I fear, have something of a Scandinavian gullet ; 
and if, in addition to his being a powerful drinker, he 

181 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER is pleasant in his cups, and can sing, and forgive, be 
AnSlmbiy frcc-handed, and roll out the grand risky phrases of 
at the Pilot Inn a fired brain, he stamps himself, in the apprehension 
of his associates, a king. 

Much of the stuff was required to deal King Robert 
of Warbeach the capital stroke, and commonly he 
could hold on till a puff of cold air from the outer 
door, like an admonitory messenger, reminded him 
that he was, in the greatness of his soul, a king of 
swine ; after which his way of walking off, without 
a word to anybody, hoisting his whole stature, while 
others were staggering, or roaring foul rhymes, or feel- 
ing consciously mortal in their sensation of feverish- 
ness, became a theme for admiration ; ay, and he was 
fresh as an orchard apple in the morning! there lay 
his commandership convincingly. What was proved 
overnight was confirmed at dawn. 

Mr. Robert had his contrast in Sedgett's son, 
Nicodemus Sedgett, whose unlucky Christian name 
had assisted the wits of Warbeach in bestowing on 
him a darkly-luminous relationship. Young Nic loved 
also to steep his spirit in the bowl; but, in addition 
to his never paying for his luxury, he drank as if in 
emulation of the colour of his reputed patron, and 
neighbourhood to Nic Sedgett was not liked when that 
young man became thoughtful over his glass. 

The episode of his stabbing the landlady's son Harry 
clung to him fatally. The wound was in the thigh, 
and nothing serious. Harry was up and off to sea 
before Nic had ceased to show the marks of Robert's 
vengeance upon him ; but blood-shedding, even on a 
small scale, is so detested by Englishmen, that Nic 
never got back to his right hue in the eyes of War- 
182 



RHODA FLEMING 

beach. None felt to him as to a countryman, and it chapter 
may be supposed that his face was seen no more in AnA^tmbiy 
the house of gathering, the Pilot Inn. at the Pilot ina 

He rented one of the Fairly farms, known as the 
Three-Tree Farm, subsisting there, men fancied, by 
the aid of his housekeeper's money. For he was of 
those evil fellows who disconcert all righteous pro- 
phecy, and it was vain for Mrs. Boulby and Warbeach 
village to declare that no good could come to him, 
when Fortune manifestly kept him going. 

He possessed the rogue's most serviceable art : in 
spite of a countenance that was not attractive, this 
fellow could, as was proved by evidence, make him- 
self pleasing to women. * The truth of it is,' said 
Mrs. Boulby, at a loss for any other explanation, and 
with a woman's love of sharp generalization, Mt's 
because my sex is fools.' 

He had one day no money to pay his rent, and forth- 
with (using for the purpose his last five shillings, it 
was said) advertized for a housekeeper ; and before 
Warbeach had done chuckling over his folly, an agree- 
able woman of about thirty-five was making purchases 
in his name ; she made tea, and the evening brew for 
such friends as he could collect, and apparently paid 
his rent for him, after a time; the distress was not 
in the house three days. It seemed to Warbeach an 
erratic proceeding on the part of Providence, that Nic 
should ever be helped to swim ; but our modern pro- 
phets have small patience, and summon Destiny to 
strike without a preparation of her weapons or a 
warning to the victim. 

More than Robert's old occasional vice was at the 
bottom of his popularity, as I need not say. Let 

183 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER those who generalize upon ethnology determine whether 
An Assembly *^® ancient opposition of Saxon and Norman be at an 
at the Pilot Inn end; but it is certain, to my thinking, that when a 
hero of the people can be got from the common 
popular stock, he is doubly dear. A gentleman, 
however gallant and familiar, will hardly ever be as 
much beloved, until he dies to inform a legend or a* 
ballad : seeing that death only can remove the peculiar 
distinctions and distances which the people feel to 
exist between themselves and the gentleman-class, 
and which, not to credit them with preternatural 
discernment, they are carefully taught to feel. Dead 
Britons are all Britons, but live Britons are not quite 
brothers. 

It was as the son of a yeoman, showing compre- 
hensible accomplishments, that Robert took his lead. 
He was a very brave, a sweet-hearted, and a handsome 
young man, and he had very chivalrous views of life, 
that were understood by a sufficient number under the 
influence of ale or brandy, and by a few in default of 
that material aid ; and they had a family pride in him. 
The pride was mixed with fear, which threw over it a 
tender light, like a mother's dream of her child. The 
people, I have said, are not so lost in self-contempt as 
to undervalue their best men, but it must be admitted 
that they rarely produce young fellows wearing the un- 
deniable chieftain's stamp, and the rarity of one like 
Robert lent a hue of sadness to him in their thoughts. 

Fortune, moreover, the favourer of Nic Sedgett, blew 
foul whichever the way Robert set his sails. He would 
not look to his own advantage ; and the belief that man 
should set his little traps for the liberal hand of his 
God, if he wishes to prosper, rather than strive to be 
184 



RHODA FLEMING 

merely honourable in his Maker's eye, is almost as chapter 
general among poor people as it is with the moneyed ^^ A^tmbiy 
classes, who survey them from their height. at the Pilot inn 

When jolly Butcher Billing, who was one of the 
limited company which had sat with Robert at the 
* Pilot ' last night, reported that he had quitted the 
army, he was hearkened to dolefully, and the feeling 
was universal that glorious Robert had cut himself 
off from his pension and his hospital. 

But when gossip Sedgett went his rounds, telling 
that Robert was down among them again upon the 
darkest expedition their minds could conceive, and 
rode out every morning for the purpose of encounter- 
ing one of the gentlemen up at Fairly, and had already 
pulled him off his horse and laid him in the mud, 
calling him scoundrel and challenging him either to 
yield his secret or to fight ; and that he followed him, 
and was out after him publicly, and matched himself 
against that gentleman, who had all the other gentle- 
men, and the earl, and the law to back him, the little 
place buzzed with wonder and alarm. Faint hearts 
declared that Robert was now done for. All felt that 
he had gone miles beyond the mark. Those were the 
misty days when fogs rolled up the salt river from the 
winter sea, and the sun lived but an hour in the clotted 
sky, extinguished near the noon. 

Robert was seen riding out, and the tramp of his 
horse was heard as he returned homeward. He called 
no more at the * Pilot.' Darkness and mystery en- 
veloped him. There were nightly meetings under Mrs. 
Boulby's roof, in the belief that he could not withstand 
her temptations ; nor did she imprudently discourage 
them ; but the woman at last overcame the landlady 

185 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER within her, and she wailed : ' He won't come because 
An As^lmbiy ^^ *^® drink. Oh ! why was I made to sell liquor, 
at the Pilot Inn which he says sends him to the devil, poor blessed 
boy ? and I can't help begging him to take one little 
drop. I did, the first night he was down, forgetting 
his ways ; he looked so desperate, he did, and it went 
on and went on, till he was primed, and me proud to 
see him get out of his misery. And now he hates the 
thought of me.' 

In her despair she encouraged Sedgett to visit her 
bar and parlour, and he became everywhere a most 
important man. 

Farmer Eccles's habits of seclusion (his pride, some 
said), and more especially the dreaded austere Aunt 
Anne, who ruled that household, kept people distant 
from the Warbeach farm-house, all excepting Sedgett, 
who related that every night on his return, she read 
a chapter from the Bible to Robert, sitting up for him 
patiently to fulfil her duty ; and that the farmer's words 
to his son had been : * Rest here ; eat and drink, and 
ride my horse ; but not a penny of my money do 
you have.' 

By the help of Steeve Bilton, the Fairly huntsman, 
Sedgett was enabled to relate that there was a com- 
bination of the gentlemen against Robert, whose be- 
haviour none could absolutely approve, save the 
landlady and jolly Butcher Billing, who stuck to him 
with a hearty blind faith. 

*Did he ever,' asked the latter, 'did Bob Eccles 
ever conduct himself disrespectful to his superiors ? 
Wasn't he always found out at his wildest for to be 
right — to a sensible man's way of thinking ? — though 
not, I grant ye, to his own interests — there 's another 
186 



RHODA FLEMING 

tale.' And Mr. Billing's staunch adherence to the hero chapter 
of the village was cried out to his credit when Sedgett ^^ A^tmbiy 
stated, on Stephen Bilton's authority, that Robert's at the Pilot inn 
errand was the defence of a girl who had been wronged, 
and whose whereabout, that she might be restored to 
her parents, was all he wanted to know. This story 
passed from mouth to mouth, receiving much orna- 
ment in the passage. The girl in question became a 
lady; for it is required of a mere common girl that 
she should display remarkable character before she 
can be accepted as the fitting companion of a popular 
hero. She became a young lady of fortune, in love 
with Robert, and concealed by the artifice of the 
off'ending gentleman whom Robert had challenged. 
Sedgett told this for truth, being instigated to bold- 
ness of invention by pertinacious inquiries, and the 
dignified sense which the whole story hung upon him. 

Mrs. Boulby, who, as a towering woman, despised 
Sedgett's weak frame, had been willing to listen till 
she perceived him to be but a man of fiction, and 
then she gave him a flat contradiction, having no 
esteem for his custom. 

* Eh ! but. Missis, I can tell you his name — the 
gentleman's name,' said Sedgett placably. *He's a 
Mr. Algernon Blancove, and a cousin by marriage, or 
something, of Mrs. Lovell.' 

*I reckon you're right about that, goodman,' re- 
plied Mrs. Boulby, with intuitive discernment of the 
true from the false, mingled with a desire to show 
that she was under no obligation for the news. * All 
t' other 's a tale of your own, and you know it, and 
no more true than your rigmaroles about my brandy, 
which is French ; it is, as sure as my blood 's British.' 

187 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER * Oh ! Missis/ quoth Sedgett maliciously, * as to tales, 
An A^imbiy y^^ '^^ S^^ witncsses enough it crassed chann'l. Aha ! 
at the Pilot Inn Don't bring 'eiti into the box. Don't you bring 'em 
into ne'er a box.' 

* You mean to say, Mr. Sedgett, they won't swear ? ' 

* No, Missis ; they '11 swear, fast and safe, if you teach 
'em. Dashed if they won't run the " Pilot " on a rock 
with their swearin'. It ain't a good habit.' 

*Well, Mr. Sedgett, the next time you drink my 

brandy and find the consequences bad, you let me 

hear of it.' 

*And what '11 you do. Missis, may be?' 

Listeners were by, and Mrs. Boulby cruelly retorted : 

' I won't send you home to your wife ' ; which created 

a roar against this hen-pecked man. 

* As to consequences. Missis, it 's for your sake I 'm 
looking at t/iem,' Sedgett said, when he had recovered 
from the blow. 

* You say that to the Excise, Mr. Sedgett ; it, belike, 
'11 make 'em sorry.' 

* Brandy 's your weak point, it appears. Missis.' 

* A little in you would stiffen your back, Mr. Sed- 
gett.' 

< Poor Bob Eccles didn't want no stiffening when he 
come down first,' Sedgett interjected. 

At which, flushing enraged, Mrs. Boulby cried : 
* Mention him, indeed ! And him and you, and that 
son of your'n — the shame of your cheeks if people 
say he 's like his father. Is it your son, Nic Sedgett, 
thinks to inform against me, as once he swore to, and 
to get his wage that he may step out of a second bank- 
ruptcy ? — and he a farmer ! You let him know that he 
isn't feared by me, Sedgett, and there 's one here to 
188 



RHODA FLEMING 

give him a second dose, without waiting for him to chapter 
use clasp-knives on harmless innocents.' ^n As^imwy 

* Pacify yourself, ma'am, pacify yourself,' remarked atthePiiotina 
Sedgett, hardened against words abroad by his endur- 
ance of blows at home. * Bob Eccles, he 's got his 

hands full, and he, may be, '11 reach the hulks before 

my Nic do, yet. And how'm I answerable for Nic, • 

I ask you ? ' 

* More luck to you not to be, I say ; and either, 
Sedgett, you does woman's work, gossipin' about like 
a cracked bell-clapper, or men 's the biggest gossips 
of all, which I believe ; for there 's no beating you at 
your work, and one can't wish ill to you, knowing 
what you catch.' 

*In a friendly way. Missis,' — Sedgett fixed on the 
compliment to his power of propagating news — * in a 
friendly way. You can't accuse me of leavin' out the 
" 1 " in your name, now, can you ? I make that ob- 
servation,' — the venomous tattler screwed himself up 
to the widow insinuatingly, as if her understanding 
could only be seized at close quarters, — * I make that 
observation, because poor Dick Boulby, your lamented 
husband — eh ! poor Dick ! You see. Missis, it ain't the 
tough ones last. longest : he 'd sing, "/';» a Sea-Boobyy' 
to the song, ^^ Vm a green Mermaid'^ : poor Dick ! '^ a- 
shinirC upon the sea-deeps." He kept the liquor from 
his head, but didn't mean it to stop down in his leg.' 

* Have you done, Mr. Sedgett ? ' said the widow 
blandly. 

* You ain't angry, Missis ? ' 

*Not a bit, Mr. Sedgett; and if I knock you over 
with the flat o' my hand, don't you think so.' 

Sedgett threw up the wizened skin of his forehead, 

189 




RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER and retreated from the bar. At a safe distance, he 
An Assembly ^^^^^^' * Bad news that about Bob Eccles swallowing 
at the Pilot Inn a blow yesterday! ' 

Mrs. Boulby faced him complacently till he retired, 
and then observed to those of his sex surrounding her, 

* Don't " woman-and-dog-and-walnut-tree " me ! Some 
of you men 'd be the better for a drubbing every day of 
your lives. Sedgett yond' 'd be as big a villain as his 
son, only for what he gets at home.* 

That was her way of replying to the Parthian arrow; 
but the barb was poisoned. The village was at fever 
heat concerning Robert, and this assertion that he had 
swallowed a blow, produced almost as great a con- 
sternation as if a fleet of the enemy had been reported 
off Sandy Point. 

Mrs. Boulby went into her parlour and wrote a letter 
to Robert, which she despatched by one of the loungers 
about the bar, who brought back news, that three of 
the gentlemen of Fairly were on horseback, talking to 
Farmer Eccles at his garden gate. Affairs were waxing 
hot. The gentlemen had only to threaten Farmer 
Eccles, to make him side with his son, right or wrong. 
In the evening, Stephen Bilton, the huntsman, pre- 
sented himself at the door of the long parlour of the 

* Pilot,' and loud cheers were his greeting from a full 
company. 

* Gentlemen all,' said Stephen, with dapper modesty; 
and acted as if no excitement were current, and he 
had nothing to tell. 

* Well, Steeve ? ' said one, to encourage him. 

* How about Bob, to-day ? ' said another. 

Before Stephen had spoken, it was clear to the ap- 
prehension of the whole room that he did not share 
190 



RHODA FLEMING 

the popular view of Robert. He declined to under- chapter 
stand who was meant by *Bob.* He played the ^n Assembly 
questions off; and then shrugged, with, * Oh, let *s at the Pilot inn 
have a quiet evening.' 

It ended in his saying, * About Bob Eccles ? There, 
that 's summed up pretty quick — he 's mad.' 

* Mad ! ' shouted Warbeach. 

* That's a lie,' said Mrs. Boulby, from the door- 
way. 

*Well, mum, I let a lady have her own opinion.' 
Stephen nodded to her. * There ain't a doubt as 
t' what the doctors 'd bring him in. I ain't speaking 
my ideas alone. It's written like the capital letters 
in a newspaper. Lunatic 's the word ! And I '11 take 
a glass of something warm, Mrs. Boulby. We had a 
stiff run to-day.' 

* Where did ye kill, Steeve?' asked a dispirited 
voice. 

*We didn't kill at all: he was one of those 'long 
shore dogfoxes, and got away home on the cliff.' 
Stephen thumped his knee. * It 's my belief the smell 
o' sea gives 'em extra cunning.' 

*The beggar seems to have put ye out rether — eh, 
Steeve ? ' 

So it was generally presumed: and yet the charge 
of madness was very staggering; madness being, in 
the first place, indefensible, and everybody's enemy 
when at large ; and Robert's behaviour looked ex- 
tremely like it. It had already been as a black shadow 
haunting enthusiastic minds in the village, and there 
fell a short silence, during which Stephen made his 
preparations for filling and lighting a pipe. 

* Come ; how do you make out he 's mad ? ' 

191 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Jolly Butcher Billing spoke; but with none of the 
An Assembly ^^^ny of Confidence. 

at the Pilot Inn ^ Oh ! ' Stephen merely clapped both elbows against 
his sides. 

Several pairs of eyes were studying him. He glanced 
over them in turn, and commenced leisurely the puff 
cofttemplative. 

* Don't happen to have a grudge of e'er a kind 
against old Bob, Steeve ? ' 

'Not I!' 

Mrs. Boulby herself brought his glass to Stephen, 
and, retreating, left the parlour-door open. 

* What causes you for to think him mad, Steeve ? ' 

A second * Oh ! ' as from the heights dominating 
argument, sounded from Stephen's throat, half like a 
grunt. This time he condescended to add : 

* How do you know when a dog 's gone mad ? Well, 
Robert Eccles, he 's gone in like manner. If you don't 
judge a man by his actions, you 've got no means of 
reckoning. He comes and attacks gentlemen, and 
swears he '11 go on doing it.' 

* Well, and what does that prove ?' said jolly Butcher 
Billing. 

Mr. William Moody, boat-builder, a liver-com- 
plexioned citizen, undertook to reply. 

*What does that prove? What does that prove 
when the midshipmite was found with his head in 
the mixed-pickle jar? It proved that his head was 
lean, and t' other part was rounder.' 

The illustration appeared forcible, but not direct, 

and nothing more was understood from it than that 

Moody, and two or three others who had been struck 

by the image of the infatuated young naval officer, 

192 



RHODA FLEMING 

were going over to the enemy. The stamp of madness chapter 
upon Robert's acts certainly saved perplexity, and was ^^ Assembly 
the easiest side of the argument. By this time Stephen at the piiotinn 
had finished his glass, and the effect was seen. 

' Hang it ! ' he exclaimed, ' I don't agree he deserves 
shooting. And he may have had harm done to him. 
In that case, let him fight. And I say, too, let the 
gentleman give him satisfaction.' 

* Hear ! hear ! ' cried several. 

'And if the gentleman refuse to give him satisfaction 
in a fair stand-up fight, I say he ain't a gentleman, 
and deserves to be treated as such. My objection's 
personal. I don't like any man who spoils sport, and 
ne'er a rascally vulpeci' spoils sport as he do, since 
he 's been down in our parts again. I '11 take another 
brimmer, Mrs. Boulby.' 

* To be sure you will, Stephen,' said Mrs. Boulby, 
bending as in a curtsey to the glass ; and so soft with 
him that foolish fellows thought her cowed by the 
accusation thrown at her favourite. 

* There 's two questions about they valpecies. Master 
Stephen,' said Farmer Wainsby, a farmer with a 
grievance, fixing his elbow on his knee for serious 
utterance. * There 's to ask, and t' ask again. Sport, 
I grant ye. All in doo season. But,' he performed a 
circle with his pipe stem, and darted it as from the 
centre thereof toward Stephen's breast, with the poser, 
' do we s'pport thieves at public expense for them to 
keep thievin' — black, white, or brown — no matter, 
eh? Well, then, if the public wunt bear it, dang me 
if I can see why individles shud bear it. It ent no 
manner o' reason, net as I can see; let gentlemen 
have their opinion, or let 'em not. Foxes be hanged ! ' 

9— N 193 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Much slow winking was interchanged. In a general 
An Assembly s^nsc, Farmer Wainsby's remarks were held to be un- 
at the Pilot Inn English, though he was pardoned for them as one 
having peculiar interests at stake. 

* Ay, ay ! we know all about that,* said Stephen, 
taking succour from the eyes surrounding him. 

* And so, may be, do we,' said Wainsby. 

* Fox-hunting '11 go on when your great-grandfather 's 
your youngest son, farmer ; or t' other way.' 

* I reckon it '11 be a stuffed fox your chil'ern '11 hunt, 
Mr. Steeve ; more straw in 'em than bow'ls.' 

*If the country,' Stephen thumped the table, ^were 
what you'd make of it, hang me if my name'd long 
be Englishman ! ' 

* Hear, hear, Steeve ! ' was shouted in support of the 
Conservative principle enunciated by him. 

* What I say is, flesh and blood afore foxes ! ' 

Thus did Farmer Wainsby likewise attempt a rally- 
ing-cry ; but Stephen's retort, * Ain't foxes flesh and 
blood ? ' convicted him of clumsiness, and, buoyed on 
the uproar of cheers, Stephen pursued, * They are ; to 
kill 'em in cold blood 's beast-murder, so it is. What 
do we do ? We give 'em a fair field — a fair field and 
no favour ! We let 'em trust to the instincts Nature, 
she 's given 'em ; and don't the old woman know best ? 
If they can get away, they win the day. All 's open, 
and honest, and aboveboard. Kill your rats and kill 
your rabbits, but leave foxes to your betters. Foxes 
are gentlemen. You don't understand? Be hanged 
if they ain't ! I like the old fox, and I don't like to 
see him murdered and exterminated, but die the death 
of a gentleman, at the hands of gentlemen ' 

* And ladies,' sneered the farmer. 
194 



RHODA FLEMING 

All the room was with Stephen, and would have chapter 
backed him uproariously, had he not reached his AnA^lmbiy 
sounding period without knowing it, and thus at the Pilot inn 
allowed his opponent to slip in that abominable 
addition. 

*Ay, and ladies,' cried the huntsman, keen at re- 
covery. * Why shouldn't they ? I hate a field with- 
out a woman in it ; don't you ? and you ? and you ? 
And you, too, Mrs. Boulby ? There you are, and the 
room looks better for you — don't it, lads ? Hurrah ! ' 

The cheering was now aroused, and Stephen had 
his glass filled again in triumph, while the farmer 
meditated thickly over the ruin of his argument from 
that fatal effort at fortifying it by throwing a hint 
to the discredit of the sex, as many another man 
has meditated before. 

*Eh! poor old Bob!' Stephen sighed and sipped. 
* I can cry that with any of you. It 's worse for me 
to see than for you to hear of him. Wasn't I always 
a friend of his, and said he was worthy to be a gentle- 
man, many a time ? He 's got the manners of a gentle- 
man now ; ofFs with his hat, if there 's a lady present, 
and such a neat way of speaking. But there, acting 's 
the thing, and his behaviour 's beastly bad ! You can't 
call it no other. There's two Mr. Blancoves up at 
Fairly, relations of Mrs. Lovell's — whom I '11 take the 
liberty of calling My Beauty, and no offence meant : 
and it 's before her that Bob only yesterday rode up — 
one of the gentlemen being Mr. Algernon, free of hand 
and a good seat in the saddle, t' other 's Mr. Edward ; 
but Mr. Algernon, he 's Robert Eccles's man — up rides 
Bob, just as we was tying Mr. Reenard's brush to the 
pommel of the lady's saddle, down in Ditley Marsh ; 

195 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER and he bows to the lady. Says he — but he's mad, 
A ?^"\t stark mad!' 

An Assembly 

atthePiiotinn Stephen resumed his pipe amid a din of disappoint- 
ment that made the walls ring and the glasses leap. 

* A little more sugar, Stephen ? ' said Mrs. Boulby, 
moving in lightly from the doorway. 

* Thank ye, mum ; you 're the best hostess that ever 
breathed.' 

* So she be ; but how about Bob ? ' cried her guests 
— some asking whether he carried a pistol or flour- 
ished a stick. 

* Ne'er a blessed twig, to save his soul ; and there 's 
the madness written on him,' Stephen roared as loud 
as any of them. *And me to see him riding in the 
ring there, and knowing what the gentleman had 
sworn to do if he came across the hunt ; and feeling 
that he was in the wrong ! I haven't got a oath to 
swear how mad I was. Fancy yourselves in my 
place. I love old Bob. I 've drunk with him ; I owe 
him obligations from since I was a boy up'ard ; I 
don't know a better than Bob in all England. And 
there he was : and says to Mr. Algernon, " You know 
what I 'm come for." I never did behold a gentleman 
so pale-shot all over his cheeks as he was, and pinkish 
under the eyes ; if you 've ever noticed a chap laid 
hands on by detectives in plain clothes. Smack at 
Bob went Mr. Edward's whip.' 

* Mr. Algernon's,' Stephen was corrected. 

*Mr. Edward's, I tell ye — the cousin. And right 
across the face. My Lord ! it made my blood tingle.' 

A sound like the swish of a whip expressed the 
sentiments of that assemblage at the Pilot. 

* Bob swallowed it ? ' 
196 



RHODA FLEMING 

*What else could he do, the fool? He had nothing chapter 
to help him but his hand. Says he, That 's a poor ^^ A^imbiy 
way of trying to stop me. My business is with this at the Pilot inn 
gentleman ; and Bob set his horse at Mr. Algernon, 
and Mrs. Lovell rode across him with her hand raised; 
and just at that moment up jogged the old gentleman, 
Squire Blancove, of Wrexby : and Robert Eccles says 
to him, "You might have saved your son something 
by keeping your word." It appears according to Bob, 
that the squire had promised to see his son, and settle 
matters. All Mrs. Lovell could do was hardly enough 
to hold back Mr. Edward from laying out at Bob. He 
was like a white devil, and speaking calm and polite 
all the time. Says Bob, I 'm willing to take one when 
I 've done with the other ; and the squire began talk- 
ing to his son, Mrs. Lovell to Mr. Edward, and the 
rest of the gentlemen all round poor dear old Bob, 
rather bullying-like for my blood; till Bob couldn't 
help being nettled, and cried out. Gentlemen, I hold 
him in my power, and I 'm silent so long as there 's a 
chance of my getting him to behave like a man with 
human feelings. If they 'd gone at him then, I don't 
think I could have let him stand alone : an opinion 's 
one thing, but blood's another, and I'm distantly 
related to Bob ; and a man who 's always thinking of 
the value of his place, he ain't worth it. But Mrs. 
Lovell, she settled the case — a lady, Farmer Wainsby, 
with your leave. There 's the good of having a lady 
present on the field. That 's due to a lady ! ' 

'Happen she was at the bottom of it,' the farmer 
returned Stephen's nod grumpily. 

* How did it end, Stephen, my lad ? ' said Butcher 
Billing, indicating a * never mind him.* 

197 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER *It ended, my boy, it ended like my glass here — hot 
AnAs^imbiy ^^^ strong stuff, with sugar at the bottom. And I 
at the Pilot Inn don't sec this, SO glad as I saw that, my word of 
honour on it ! Boys all ! ' Stephen drank the dregs. 

Mrs. Boulby was still in attendance. The talk over 
the circumstances was sweeter than the bare facts, 
and the replenished glass enabled Stephen to add the 
picturesque bits of the affray, unspurred by a sur- 
rounding eagerness of his listeners — too exciting for 
imaginative effort. In particular, he dwelt on Robert's 
dropping the reins and riding with his heels at Al- 
gernon, when Mrs. Lovell put her horse in his way, 
and the pair of horses rose like waves at sea, and 
both riders showed their horsemanship, and Robert 
an adroit courtesy, for which the lady thanked him 
with a bow of her head. 

* I got among the hounds, pretending to pacify them, 
and call 'em together,' said Stephen, * and I heard her 
say — just before all was over, and he turned off — I 
heard her say : " Trust this to me : I will meet you." 
I '11 swear to them exact words, though there was more, 
and a " where " in the bargain, and that I didn't hear. 
Aha ! by George ! thinks I, old Bob, you 're a lucky 
beggar, and be hanged if I wouldn't go mad too for a 
minute or so of short, sweet, private talk with a lovely 
young widow lady as ever the sun did shine upon so 
boldly — oho ! 

You've seen a yacht upon the sea, 

She dances and she dances, O! 
As fair is my wild maid to me . . . 

Something about " prances, O ! " on her horse, you 
know, or you 're a hem'd fool if you don't. I never 
could sing; wish I could! It's the joy of life! It's 
utterance ! Hey for harmony ! ' 
198 



RHODA FLEMING 

* Eh ! bray vo ! now you 're a man, Steeve ! and wel- chapter 
comer and welcom<?j/; yi— yi, O!' jolly Butcher Bill- AnAsYemWy 
ing sang out sharp. 'Life wants watering. Here's at the puot inn 
a health to Robert Eccles, wheresoever and whatso- 
ever ! and ne'er a man shall say of me I didn't stick 

by a friend like Bob. Cheers, my lads ! ' 

Robert's health was drunk in a thunder, and praises 
of the purity of the brandy followed the grand roar. 
Mrs. Boulby received her compliments on that head. 

"Pends upon the tide. Missis, don't it?' one re- 
marked with a grin broad enough to make the slyness 
written on it easy reading. 

* Ah ! first a flow and then a ebb,* said another. 

* It 's many a keg I plant i' the mud, 
Coastguardsman, come ! and I '11 have your blood ! ' 

Instigation cried, * Cut along ' ; but the defiant 
smuggler was deficient in memory, and like Steeve 
Bilton, was reduced to scatter his concluding rhymes 
in prose, as ' something about ' ; whereat jolly Butcher 
Billing, a reader of song-books from a literary delight 
in their contents, scraped his head, and then, as if 
he had touched a spring, carolled : 

* In spite of all you Gov'ment pack, 

I '11 land my kegs of the good CognyAC '— 

* though,' he took occasion to observe when the chorus 
and a sort of cracker of irrelevant rhymes had ceased 
to explode ; * I 'm for none of them games. Honesty ! 
— there 's the sugar o' my grog.' 

*Ay, but you like to be cock-sure of the stuff you 
drink, if e'er a man did,' said the boatbuilder, whose 
eye blazed yellow in this frothing season of song and 
fun. 

199 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER 'Right SO, Will Moody!' returned the jolly butcher: 

XVIII *> f 

An Assembly * which mcans — not wrong this time ! ' 
at the Pilot Inn * Then, what 's understood by your sticking prongs 

into your hostess here concerning of her brandy? 

Here it is — which is enough, except for discontented 

fellows.' 

* Eh, Missus ? * the jolly butcher appealed to her, and 
pointed at Moody's complexion for proof. 

It was quite a fiction that kegs of the good cognac 
were sown at low water, and reaped at high, near 
the river-gate of the old Pilot Inn garden ; but it 
was greatly to Mrs. Boulby's interest to encourage 
the delusion which imaged her brandy thus arising 
straight from the very source, without villanous con- 
tact with excisemen and corrupting dealers ; and as, 
perhaps, in her husband's time, the thing had hap- 
pened, and still did, at rare intervals, she complacently 
gathered the profitable fame of her brandy being the 
best in the district. 

* I 'm sure I hope you 're satisfied, Mr. Billing,' she said. 
The jolly butcher asked whether Will Moody was 

satisfied, and Mr. William Moody declaring himself 
thoroughly satisfied, * then I 'm satisfied too ! ' said the 
jolly butcher; upon which the boatbuilder heightened 
the laugh by saying he was not satisfied at all ; and 
to escape from the execrations of the majority, pleaded 
that it was because his glass was empty : thus making 
his peace with them. Every glass in the room was 
filled again. 

The young fellows now loosened tongue ; and Dick 
Curtis, the promising cricketer of Hampshire, cried, 
*Mr. Moody, my hearty! that's your fourth glass, so 
don't quarrel with me, now 1 ' 
200 



RHODA FLEMING 

* You ! ' Moody fired up in a bilious frenzy, and called chapter 
him a this and that and t' other young vagabond ; for ^^ A^embiy 
which the company, feeling the ominous truth con- atthePUotinn 
tained in Dick Curtis's remark more than its imper- 
tinence, fined Mr. Moody in a song. He gave the — 

* So many young Captains have walked o'er my pate, 

It's no wonder you see me quite bald, sir,' 

with emphatic bitterness, and the company thanked 
him. Seeing him stand up as to depart, however, a 
storm of contempt was hurled at him ; some said he 
was like old Sedgett, and was afraid of his wife ; and 
some, that he was like Nic Sedgett, and drank blue. 

* You 're a bag of blue devils, oh dear ! oh dear ! ' 

sang Dick to the tune of * The Campbells are coming.' 

* I ask e'er a man present,' Mr. Moody put out his 
fist, * is that to be borne ? Didn't you,' he addressed 
Dick Curtis, * didn't you sing into my chorus — 

"It's no wonder to hear how you squall'd, sir?" 

You did ! ' 

* Don't he,' — Dick addressed the company, — * make 
Mrs. Boulby's brandy look ashamed of itself in his 
face ? I ask e'er a gentleman present.' 

Accusation and retort were interchanged, in the 
course of which, Dick called Mr. Moody Nic Sedgett's 
friend ; and a sort of criminal inquiry was held. It 
was proved that Moody had been seen with Nic Sed- 
gett ; and then three or four began to say that Nic 
Sedgett was thick with some of the gentlemen up at 
Fairly ; — just like his luck ! Stephen let it be known 
that he could confirm this fact; he having seen Mr. 
Algernon Blancove stop Nic on the road and talk to 
him. 

201 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER «In that case,* said Butcher Billing, 'there's mischief 
An Assembly ^^ ^ statc of fermentation. Did ever anybody see Nic 
at the Pilot Inn and the dcvil together?' 

* I saw Nic and Mr. Moody together,' said Dick 
Curtis. *Well, I'm only stating a fact,' he exclaimed, 
as Moody rose, apparently to commence an engage- 
ment, for which the company quietly prepared, by 
putting chairs out of his way : but the recreant took 
his advantage from the error, and got away to the 
door, pursued. 

* Here 's an example of what we lose in having no 
President,' sighed the jolly butcher. * There never 
was a man built for the chair like Bob Eccles I say ! 
Our evening's broke up, and I, for one, 'd ha' made 
it morning. Hark, outside ; By Gearge ! they 're snow- 
balling.' 

An adjournment to the front door brought them 
in view of a white and silent earth under keen stars, 
and Dick Curtis and the bilious boatbuilder, foot to 
foot, snowball in hand. A bout of the smart exercise 
made Mr. Moody laugh again, and all parted merrily, 
delivering final shots as they went their several ways. 

' Thanks be to heaven for snowing,' said Mrs. Boulby ; 
* or when I should have got to my bed. Goodness only 
can tell ! ' With which, she closed the door upon the 
empty inn. 



CHAPTER XIX 
Robert smitten low 

The night was warm with the new-fallen snow, though 
the stars sparkled coldly. A fleet of South-westerly 
202 



RHODA FLEMING 

rain-clouds had been met in mid-sky by a sharp puff chapter 
from due North, and the moisture had descended like Robfrt 
a woven shroud, covering all the land, the house-tops, smitten low 
and the trees. 

Young Harry Boulby was at sea, and this still 
weather was just what a mother's heart wished for 
him. The widow looked through her bedroom window 
and listened, as if the absolute stillness must beget 
a sudden cry. The thought of her boy made her heart 
revert to Robert. She was thinking of Robert when 
the muffled sound of a horse at speed caused her to 
look up the street, and she saw one coming — a horse 
without a rider. The next minute he was out of 
sight. 

Mrs. Boulby stood terrified. The silence of the night 
hanging everywhere seemed to call on her for proof 
that she had beheld a real earthly spectacle, and the 
dead thump of the hooves on the snow-floor in passing 
struck a chill through her as being phantom-like. But 
she had seen a saddle on the horse, and the stirrups 
flying, and the horse looked affrighted. The scene 
was too earthly in its suggestion of a tale of blood. 
What if the horse were Robert's ? She tried to laugh 
at her womanly fearfulness, and had almost to sup- 
press a scream in doing so. There was no help for 
it but to believe her brandy as good and efficacious as 
her guests did, so she went downstairs and took a 
fortifying draught ; after which her blood travelled 
faster, and the event galloped swiftly into the recesses 
of time, and she slept. 

While the morning was still black, and the streets 
without a sign of life, she was aroused by a dream 
of some one knocking at her grave-stone. *Ah, that 

203 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER brandy ! ' she sighed. ' This is what a poor woman 

XIX 

Robert ^^^ *^ P^Y ^^^ custom ! ' Which we may interpret as 
smitten low the remorseful morning confession of a guilt she had 
been the victim of overnight. She knew that good 
brandy did not give bad dreams, and was self-convicted. 
Strange were her sensations when the knocking con- 
tinued ; and presently she heard a voice in the naked 
street below call in a moan, * Mother ! ' 

* My darling ! ' she answered, divided in her guess at 
its being Harry or Robert. 

A glance from the open window showed Robert 
leaning in the quaint old porch, with his head bound 
by a handkerchief; but he had no strength to reply 
to a question at that distance, and when she let him 
in he made two steps and dropped forward on the 
floor. 

Lying there, he plucked at her skirts. She was 
shouting for help, but with her ready apprehension 
of the pride in his character, she knew what was 
meant by his broken whisper before she put her ear 
to his lips, and she was silent, miserable sight as was 
his feeble efforts to rise on an elbow that would not 
straighten. 

His head was streaming with blood, and the stain 
was on his neck and chest. He had one helpless arm ; 
his clothes were torn as from a fierce struggle. 

*I'm quite sensible,' he kept repeating, lest she 
should relapse into screams. 

* Lord love you for your spirit ! ' exclaimed the 
widow, and there they remained, he like a winged 
eagle, striving to raise himself from time to time, and 
fighting with his desperate weakness. His face was 
to the ground; after a while he was still. In alarm 

204 



RHODA FLEMING 

the widow stooped over him : she feared that he had chapter 
given up his last breath ; but the candle-light showed ^^^t 
him shaken by a sob, as it seemed to her, though she smitten low 
could scarce believe it of this manly fellow. Yet it 
proved true ; she saw the very tears. He was crying 
at his helplessness. 

* Oh, my darling boy ! ' she burst out ; * what have 
they done to ye ? the cowards they are ! but do now 
have pity on a woman, and let me get some creature 
to lift you to a bed, dear. And don't flap at me with 
your hand like a bird that 's shot. You 're quite, quite 
sensible, I know; quite sensible, dear; but for my 
sake, Robert, my Harry's good friend, only for my 
sake, let yourself be a carried to a clean, nice bed, till 
I get Dr. Bean to you. Do, do.' 

Her entreaties brought on a succession of the efforts 
to rise, and at last, getting round on his back, and 
being assisted by the widow, he sat up against the 
wall. The change of posture stupefied him with a 
dizziness. He tried to utter the old phrase, that he 
was sensible, but his hand beat at his forehead before 
the words could be shaped. 

* What pride is, when it 's a man ! ' the widow 
thought, as he recommenced the grievous struggle to 
rise on his feet ; now feeling them up to the knee with 
a questioning hand, and pausing as if in a reflective 
wonder, and then planting them for a spring that failed 
wretchedly ; groaning and leaning backward, lost in a 
fit of despair, and again beginning, patient as an insect 
imprisoned in a circle. 

The widow bore with his man's pride, until her 
nerves became afflicted by the character of his move- 
ments, which, as her sensations conceived them, were 

205 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER like those of a dry door jarring loose. She caught 
RobM-t ^™ ^^ ^^^ arms: 'It's let my back break, but you 

smitten low sha'n't fret to death there, under my eyes, proud or 
humble, poor dear,' she said, and with a great pull she 
got him upright. He fell across her shoulder with so 
stiff a groan that for a moment she thought she had 
done him mortal injury. 

* Good old mother,' he said boyishly, to reassure her. 

* Yes ; and you '11 behave to me like a son,' she 
coaxed him. 

They talked as by slow degrees the stairs were 
ascended. 

* A crack o' the head, mother — a crack o' the head,' 
said he. 

* Was it the horse, my dear ? ' 
*A crack o' the head, mother.' 

* What have they done to my boy Robert ? ' 

* They've,' — he swung about humorously, weak as 
he was and throbbing with pain — * they've let out 
some of your brandy, mother . . . got into my head.' 

* Who 've done it, my dear ? * 

* They 've done it, mother.' 

* Oh, take care o' that nail at your foot ; and oh, 
that beam to your poor poll — poor soul! he's been 
and hurt himself again. — And did they do it to him ? 
and what was it for ? ' she resumed in soft cajolery, 

< They did it, because ' 

< Yes, my dear ; the reason for it ? ' 

* Because, mother, they had a turn that way.' 

* Thanks be to Above for leaving your cunning in you, 
my dear,' said the baffled woman, with sincere admira- 
tion. * And Lord be thanked, if you 're not hurt bad, 
that they haven't spoilt his handsome face,' she added. 

206 



RHODA FLEMING 

In the bedroom, he let her partially undress him, chapter 
refusing all doctor's aid, and commanding her to make ^l^rt 
no noise about him ; and then he lay down and shut smitten low 
his eyes, for the pain was terrible — galloped him and 
threw him with a shock — and galloped him and threw 
him again, whenever his thoughts got free for a 
moment from the dizzy aching. 

*My dear,' she whispered, 'I'm going to get a little 
brandy.' 

She hastened away upon this mission. 

He was in the same posture when she returned with 
bottle and glass. 

She poured out some, and made much of it as a 
specific, and of the great things brandy would do; 
but he motioned his hand from it feebly, till she 
reproached him tenderly as perverse and unkind. 

*Now, my dearest boy, for my sake — only for my 
sake. Will you ? Yes, you will, my Robert ! ' 

* No brandy, mother.' 

' Only one small thimbleful ? * 

* No more brandy for me ! ' 

* See, dear, how seriously you take it, and ^all 
because you want the comfort.' 

* No brandy,' was all he could say. 

She looked at the label on the bottle. Alas ! she 
knew whence it came, and what its quality. She 
could cheat herself about it when herself only was 
concerned — but she wavered at the thought of forcing 
it upon Robert as trusty medicine, though it had a 
pleasant taste, and was really, as she conceived, good 
enough for customers. 

She tried him faintly with arguments in its favour ; 
but his resolution was manifested by a deaf ear. 

207 



klUBRAR^ 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER With a perfect faith in it she would, and she was 

XIX 

Robert conscious that she could, have raised his head and 
smitten low pourcd it down his throat. The crucial test of her 
love for Robert forbade the attempt. She burst into 
an uncontrollable fit of crying. 

* Halloa! mother,' said Robert, opening his eyes to 
the sad candlelight surrounding them. 

* My darling boy ! whom I do love so ; and not to be 
able to help you ! What shall I do — what shall I do ! ' 

With a start, he cried, * Where 's the horse ? * 
'The horse?' 

* The old dad '11 be asking for the horse to-morrow.' 
*I saw a horse, my dear, afore I turned to my prayers 

at my bedside, coming down the street without his 
rider. He came like a rumble of deafness in my 
ears. Oh, my boy, I thought. Is it Robert's horse? 
— knowing you 've got enemies, as there 's no brave 
man has not got 'em — which is our only hope in the 
God of heaven ! ' 

* Mother, punch my ribs.' 

He stretched himself flat for the operation, and shut 
his mouth. 

* Hard, mother ! — and quick ! — I can't hold out long.' 

* Oh ! Robert,' moaned the petrified woman — * strike 
you?' 

'Straight in the ribs. Shut your fist and do it — 
quick.' 

* My dear ! — my boy ! — I haven't the heart to do it ! ' 

* Ah ! ' Robert's chest dropped in ; but tightening 
his muscles again, he said, * now do it — do it ! ' 

< Oh ! a poke at a poor fire puts it out, dear. And 
make a murderess of me, you call mother ! Oh ! as I 

love the name, I '11 obey you, Robert. But ! there!' 

208 



RHODA FLEMING 

* Harder, mother/ chapter 

' There ! — goodness forgive me ! ' Rob^^ 

* Hard as you can — all 's right.' smitten low 
' There ! — and there ! — oh ! — mercy ! * 

* Press in my stomach/ 

She nerved herself to do his bidding, and, following 
his orders, took his head in her hands and felt about 
it. The anguish of the touch wrung a stifled scream 
from him, at which she screamed responsive. He 
laughed, while twisting with the pain. 

* You cruel boy, to laugh at your mother,' she said, 
delighted by the sound of safety in that sweet human 
laughter. * Hey ! don't ye shake your brain ; it ought 
to lie quiet. And here 's the spot of the wicked blow 
— and him in love — as I know he is ! What would 
she say if she saw him now ? But an old woman 's 
the best nurse — ne'er a doubt of it.' 

She felt him heavy on her arm, and knew that he 
had fainted. Quelling her first impulse to scream, 
she dropped him gently on the pillow, and rapped to 
rouse up her maid. 

The two soon produced a fire and hot water, 
bandages, vinegar in a basin, and every crude appli- 
ance that could be thought of; the maid followed her 
mistress's directions with a consoling awe, for Mrs. 
Boulby had told her no more than that a man was 
hurt. 

*I do hope, if it's anybody, it's that ther' Moody,' 
said the maid. 

* A pretty sort of a Christian you think yourself, I 
dare say,' Mrs. Boulby replied. 

* Christian or not, one can't help longin' for a choice, 
mum. We ain't all hands and knees.' 

9—0 209 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER 'Better for you if you was,' said the widow. 'It's 

XIX 

Robert tongues, you 're to remember, you 're not to be. Now- 
smitten low come you up after me — and you '11 not utter a word. 
You '11 stand behind the door to do what I tell you. 
You're a soldier's daughter, Susan, and haven't a 
claim to be exciteable.' 

* My mother was given to faints,' Susan protested on 
behalf of her possible weakness. 

< You may peep.' Thus Mrs. Boulby tossed a sop to 
her frail woman's nature. 

But for her having been appeased by the sagacious 
accordance of this privilege, the maid would never 
have endured to hear Robert's voice in agony, and to 
think that it was really Robert, the beloved of War- 
beach, who had come to harm. Her apprehensions 
not being so lively as her mistress's, by reason of 
her love being smaller, she was more terrified than 
comforted by Robert's jokes during the process of 
washing off the blood, cutting the hair from the wound, 
bandaging and binding up the head. 

His levity seemed ghastly ; and his refusal upon any 
persuasion to see a doctor quite heathenish, and a sign 
of one foredoomed. 

She believed that his arm was broken, and smarted 
with wrath at her mistress for so easily taking his 
word to the contrary. More than all, his abjuration 
of brandy now when it would do him good to take it, 
struck her as an instance of that masculine insanity 
in the comprehension of which all women must learn 
to fortify themselves. There was much whispering in 
the room, inarticulate to her, before Mrs. Boulby came 
out, enjoining a rigorous silence, and stating that the 
patient would drink nothing but tea. 
210 



RHODA FLEMING 

'He begged/ she said half to herself, *to have the chapter 
window blinds up in the morning, if the sun wasn't Robert 
strong, for him to look on our river opening down smitten low 
to the ships.' 

* That looks as if he meant to live,' Susan remarked. 

* He ! ' cried the widow ; ' it 's Robert Eccles. He 'd 
stand on his last inch.' 

* Would he, now!' ejaculated Susan, marvelling at 
him, with no question as to what footing that might 
be. 

* Leastways,' the widow hastened to add, *if he 
thought it was only devils against him. I've heard 
him say, " It 's a fool that holds out against God, and 
a coward as gives in to the devil " ; and there 's my 
Robert painted by his own hand.' 

' But don't that bring him to this so often, Mum ? ' 
Susan ruefully inquired, joining tea-pot and kettle. 

* I do believe he 's protected,' said the widow. 
With the first morning light Mrs. Boulby was down 

at Warbeach Farm, and being directed to Farmer Eccles 
in the stables, she found the sturdy yeoman himself 
engaged in grooming Robert's horse. 

* Well, Missis,' he said, nodding to her ; * you win, 
you see. I thought you would ; I 'd have sworn you 
would. Brandy 's stronger than blood, with some of 
our young fellows.' 

*If you please, Mr. Eccles,' she replied, * Robert's 
sending of me was to know if the horse was unhurt 
and safe.' 

* Won't his legs carry him yet. Missis ? ' 

* His legs have been graciously spared, Mr. Eccles ; 
it 's his head.' 

* That 's where the liquor flies, I 'm told.' 

2U 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER *Pray, Mr. Eccles, believe me when I declare he 
Robert hasn't touched a drop of anything but tea in my house 
smitten low this past night.' 

* I 'm sorry for that ; I 'd rather have him go to you. 
If he takes it, let him take it good ; and I 'm given to 
understand that you 've a reputation that way. Just 
tell him from me, he 's at liberty to play the devil with 
himself, but not with my beasts.* 

The farmer continued his labour. 

* No, you ain't a hard man, surely,' cried the widow. 
* Not when I say he was sober, Mr. Eccles ; and was 
thrown, and made insensible ? ' 

* Never knew such a thing to happen to him. Missis, 
and, what 's more, I don't believe it. Mayhap you 're 
come for his things : his Aunt Anne 's indoors, and 
she '11 give 'em up and gladly. And my compliments 
to Robert, and the next time he fancies visiting War- 
beach, he 'd best forward a letter to that effect.' 

Mrs. Boulby curtseyed luimbly. * You think bad of 
me, sir, for keeping a public ; but I love your son as 
my own, and if I might presume to say so, Mr. Eccles, 
you will be proud of him too before you die. I know 
no more than you how he fell yesterday, but I do 
know he 'd not been drinking, and have got bitter bad 
enemies.' 

* And that 's not astonishing. Missis.' 

* No, Mr. Eccles ; and a man who 's brave besides 
being good soon learns that.' 

* Well spoken. Missis.' 

* Is Robert to hear he 's denied his father's house ? ' 
*I never said that, Mrs. Boulby. Here's my prin- 
ciple : — My house is open to my blood, so long as he 
don't bring downright disgrace on it, and then any one 

212 



RHODA FLEMING 

may claim him that likes. I won't give him money, chapter 
because I know of a better use for it ; and he sha'n't Robert 
ride my beasts, because he don't know how to treat smitten low 
'em. That 's all.' 

' And so you keep within the line of your duty, sir,' 
the widow summed his speech. 

* So I hope to,' said the farmer. 

* There 's comfort in that,' she replied. 

* As much as there 's needed,' said he. 

The widow curtseyed again. * It 's not to trouble 
you, sir, I called. Robert — thanks be to Above ! — is 
not hurt serious, though severe.' 

* Where 's he hurt ? ' the farmer asked rather 
hurriedly. 

* In the head, it is.' 

* What have you come for ? ' 

* First, his best hat.' 

* Bless my soul ! ' exclaimed the farmer. < Well, if 
that '11 mend his head it 's at his service, I 'm sure.' 

Sick at his heartlessness, the widow scattered em- 
phasis over her concluding remarks. * First, his best 
hat, he wants ; and his coat and clean shirt ; and they 
mend the looks of a man, Mr. Eccles ; and it 's to look 
well is his object: for he's not one to make a moan 
of himself, and doctors may starve before he'd go 
to any of them. And my begging prayer to you is, 
that when you see your son, you'll not tell him I 
let you know his head or any part of him was hurt. 
I wish you good morning, Mr. Eccles.' 

* Good morning to you, Mrs. Boulby. You 're a 
respectable woman.' 

*Not to be soaped,' she murmured to herself in a 
heat. 

213 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER The apparently medicinal articles of attire were 
Robert obtained from Aunt Anne, without a word of speech 

smitten low on the part of that pale spinster. The deferential 
hostility between the two women acknowledged an 
intervening chasm. Aunt Anne produced a bundle, 
and placed the hat on it, upon which she had neatly 
pinned a tract, * The Drunkard's Awakening ! * Mrs. 
Boulby glanced her eye in wrath across this super- 
scription, thinking to herself, * Oh, you good people ! 
how you make us long in our hearts for trouble with 
you.' She controlled the impulse, and mollified her 
spirit on her way home by distributing stray leaves 
of the tract to the outlying heaps of rubbish, and to 
one inquisitive pig, who was looking up from a badly- 
smelling sty for what the heavens might send him. 

She found Robert with his arm doubled over a basin, 
and Susan sponging cold water on it. 

' No bones broken, mother ! ' he sang out. * I 'm 
sound ; all right again. Six hours have done it this 
time. Is it a thaw? You needn't tell me what the 
old dad has been saying. I shall be ready to breakfast 
in half an hour.' 

* Lord, what a big arm it is ! ' exclaimed the widow. 
'And no wonder, or how would you be a terror to 
men ? You naughty boy, to think of stirring ! Here 
you '11 lie.' 

* Ah, will I ? ' said Robert : and he gave a spring, and 
sat upright in the bed, rather white with the effort, 
which seemed to affect his mind, for he asked dubiously, 
* What do I look like, mother? ' 

She brought him the looking-glass, and Susan being 
dismissed, he examined his features. 

* Dear ! ' said the widow, sitting down on the bed ; 
214 



RHODA FLEMING 

* it ain't much for me to guess you 've got an appoint- chapter 
ment.' „™^ 

Robert 

* At twelve o'clock, mother.' smitten low 

* With her ? ' she uttered softly. 

* It 's with a lady, mother.' 

* And so many enemies prowling about, Robert, my 
dear ! Don't tell me they didn't fall upon you last 
night. I said nothing, but I 'd swear it on the Book. 
Do you think you can go ? ' 

* Why, mother, I go by my feelings, and there 's no 
need to think at all, or God knows what I should 
think.' 

The widow shook her head. * Nothing '11 stop you, 
I suppose ? ' 

* Nothing inside of me will, mother.' 

* Doesn't she but never mind. I've no right to 

ask, Robert ; and if I have curiosity, it 's about last 
night, and why you should let villains escape. But 
there 's no accounting for a man's notions ; only, this 
I say, and I do say it, Nic Sedgett, he 's at the bottom 
of any mischief brewed against you down here. And 
last night Stephen Bilton, or somebody, declared that 
Nic Sedgett had been seen up at Fairly.' 

* Selling eggs, mother. Why shouldn't he ? We 
mustn't complain of his getting an honest livelihood.' 

* He 's black-blooded, Robert ; and I never can 
understand why the Lord did not make him a beast 
in face. I'm told that creature's found pleasing by 
the girls.' 

* Ugh, mother, I 'm not.' 

' She won't have you, Robert ? ' 

He laughed. * We shall see to-day.' 

* You deceiving boy ! ' cried the widow ; * and me 

215 




C I LIBRARY 
■'•V y« 




RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER not know it 's Mrs. Lovell you 're going to meet ! and 
Robert would to heaven she 'd see the worth of ye, for it 's a 
smitten low bom lady you ought to marry.' 

* Just feel in my pockets, mother, and you won't be 
so ready with your talk of my marrying. And now 
I'll get up. I feel as if my legs had to learn over 
again how to bear me. The old dad, bless his heart ! 
gave me sound wind and limb to begin upon, so I 'm 
not easily stumped, you see, though I've been near 
on it once or twice in my life.' 

Mrs. Boulby murmured, * Ah ! are you still going to 
be at war with those gentlemen, Robert ? ' 

He looked at her steadily, while a shrewd smile 
wrought over his face, and then taking her hand, he 
said, * I '11 tell you a little ; you deserve it, and won't 
tattle. My curse is, I'm ashamed to talk about my 
feelings ; but there 's no shame in being fond of a girl, 
even if she refuses to have anything to say to you, 
is there? No, there isn't. I went with my dear old 
aunt's money to a farmer in Kent, and learnt farming ; 

clear of the army first, by ! But I must stop that 

burst of swearing. Half the time I've been away, I 
was there. The farmer 's a good, sober, downhearted 
man — a sort of beaten Englishman, who don't know it, 
tough, and always backing. He has two daughters: 
one went to London, and came to harm, of a kind. 
The other I 'd prick this vein for and bleed to death, 
singing ; and she hates me ! I wish she did. She 
thought me such a good young man ! I never drank ; 
went to bed early, was up at work with the birds. 
Mr. Robert Armstrong ! That changeing of my name 
was like a lead cap on my head. I was never myself 
with it, felt hang-dog — it was impossible a girl could 
216 



RHODA FLEMING 

care for such a fellow as I was. Mother, just listen: chapter 

XIX 

she 's dark as a gipsy. She 's the faithfulest, stoutest- Robert 
hearted creature in the world. She has black hair, smitten low 
large brown eyes ; see her once ! She 's my mate. 
I could say to her, " Stand there ; take guard of a 
thing " ; and I could be dead certain of her — she 'd 
perish at her post. Is the door locked? Lock the 
door; I won't be seen when I speak of her. Well, 
never mind whether she's handsome or not. She 
isn't a lady ; but she 's my lady ; she 's the woman I 
could be proud of. She sends me to the devil! I 
believe a woman 'd fall in love with her cheeks, they 
are so round and soft and kindly coloured. Think me 
a fool; I am. And here am I, away from her, and I 
feel that any day harm may come to her, and she'll 
melt, and be as if the devils of hell were mocking me. 
Who's to keep harm from her when I'm away? 
What can I do but drink and forget? Only now, 
when I wake up from it, I 'm a crawling wretch at her 
feet. If I had her feet to kiss ! I 've never kissed her 
— never! And no man has kissed her. Damn my 
head! here's the ache coming on. That's my last 
oath, mother. I wish there was a Bible handy, but 
I '11 try and stick to it without. My God ! when I 
think of her, I fancy everything on earth hangs still 
and doubts what 's to happen. I 'm like a wheel, and 
go on spinning. Feel my pulse now. Why is it I 
can't stop it ? But there she is, and I could crack up 
this old world to know what's coming. I was mild 
as milk all those days I was near her. My comfort is,^ 
she don't know me. And that's my curse too! If 
she did, she 'd know as clear as day I 'm her mate, her 
match, the man for her. I am, by heaven ! — that 's an 

217 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 
XIX 

Robert 
smitten low 



oath permitted. To see the very soul I want, and to 
miss her ! I 'm down here, mother ; she loves her 
sister, and I must learn where her sister's to be found. 
One of those gentlemen up at Fairly 's the guilty man. 
I don't say which; perhaps I don't know. But oh, 
what a lot of lightnings I see in the back of my 
head!' 

Robert fell back on the pillow. Mrs. Boulby wiped 
her eyes. Her feelings were overwhelmed with mourn- 
ful devotion to the passionate young man; and she 
expressed them practically : ' A rump-steak would 
never digest in his poor stomach ! ' 

He seemed to be of that opinion too, for when after 
lying till eleven, he rose and appeared at the breakfast- 
table, he ate nothing but crumbs of dry bread. It was 
curious to see his precise attention to the neatness of 
his hat and coat, and the nervous eye he cast upon 
the clock, while brushing and accurately fixing these 
garments. The hat would not sit as he was accus- 
tomed to have it, owing to the bruise on his head, 
and he stood like a woman petulant with her milliner 
before the glass ; now pressing the hat down till the 
pain was insufferable, and again trying whether it 
presented him acceptably in the enforced style of his 
wearing it. He persisted in this, till Mrs. Boulby's 
exclamation of wonder admonished him of the ideas 
received by other eyes than his own. When we appear 
most incongruous, we are often exposing the key to 
our characters; and how much his vanity, wounded 
by Rhoda, had to do with his proceedings down at 
Warbeach, it were unfair to measure just yet, lest his 
finer qualities be cast into shade, but to what degree 
it affected him will be seen. 
218 



RHODA FLEMING 

Mrs. Boulby's persuasions induced him to take a chapter 
stout silver-topped walking-stick of her husband^s, a Robert 
relic shaped from the wood of the Royal George ; lean- smitten low 
ing upon which rather more like a Naval pensioner 
than he would have cared to know, he went forth to 
his appointment with the lady. 



CHAPTER XX 

Mrs. Lovell shows a Tame Brute 

The park-sward of Fairly, white with snow, rolled 
down in long sweeps to the salt water : and under the 
last sloping oak of the park there was a gorse-bushed 
lane, green in Summer, but now bearing cumbrous 
blossom-like burdens of the crisp snow-fall. Mrs. 
Lovell sat on horseback here, and alone, with her 
gauntleted hand at her waist, charmingly habited 
in tone with the landscape. She expected a cavalier, 
and did not perceive the approach of a pedestrian, 
but bowed quietly when Robert lifted his hat. 

* They say you are mad. You see, I trust myself 
to you.' 

*I wish I could thank you for your kindness, 
madam.' 

* Are you ill ? ' 

* I had a fall last night, madam.* 
The lady patted her horse's neck. 

* I haven't time to inquire about it. You understand 
that I cannot give you more than a minute.' 

She glanced at her watch. 

* Let us say five exactly. To begin : I can't affect 

219 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER to be ignorant of the business which brings you down 

Mrs.Loveii l^^^e. I won't pretend to lecture you about the course 

shows a Tame you havc taken I but, let me distinctly assure you, 

Brute ■/ ' 

that the gentleman you have chosen to attack in this 
extraordinary manner, has done no wrong to you or 
to any one. It is therefore, disgracefully unjust to 
single him out. You know he cannot possibly fight 
you. I speak plainly.* 

*Yes, madam,' said Robert. 'I'll answer plainly. 
He can't fight ja man like me. I know it. I bear him* 
no ill-will. I believe he's innocent enough in this 
matter, as far as acts go.' 

* That makes your behaviour to him worse ! ' 
Robert looked up into her eyes. 

* You are a lady. You won't be shocked at what I 
tell you.' 

* Yes, yes,' said Mrs. Lovell hastily : ' I have learnt 
— I am aware of the tale. Some one has been injured: 
or, you think so. I don't accuse you of madness, but, 
good heavens ! what means have you been pursuing ! 
Indeed, sir, let your feelings be as deeply engaged as 
possible, you have gone altogether the wrong way 
to work.' 

* Not if I have got your help by it, madam.' 
' Gallantly spoken.' 

She smiled with a simple grace. The next moment 
she consulted her watch. 

'Time has gone faster than I anticipated. I must 
leave you. Let this be our stipulation ' : 

She lowered her voice. 

'You shall have the address you require. I will 
undertake to see her myself, when next I am in London. 
It will be soon. In return, sir, favour me with your 
220 



RHODA FLEMING 

word of honour not to molest this gentleman any chapter 
further. Will you do that ? You may trust me.' MrsSveii 

* I do, madam, with all my soul ! ' said Robert. shows a Tame 

' That 's sufficient. I ask no more. Good morning.' ^"**® 
Her parting bow remained with him like a vision. 
Her voice was like the tinkling of harp-strings about 
his ears. The colour of her riding-habit this day, 
harmonious with the snow-faced earth, as well as the 
gentle mission she had taken upon herself, strength- 
ened his vivid fancy in blessing her as something 
quite divine. 

He thought for the first time in his life bitterly of 
the great fortune which fell to gentlemen in meeting 
and holding equal converse with so adorable a creature; 
and he thought of Rhoda as being harshly earthly; 
repulsive in her coldness as that black belt of water 
contrasted against the snow on the shores. 

He walked some paces in the track of Mrs. Lovell's 
horse, till his doing so seemed too presumptuous, 
though to turn the other way and retrace his steps 
was downright hateful : and he stood apparently in 
profound contemplation of a ship of war and the 
trees of the forest behind the masts. Either the 
fatigue of standing, or emotion, caused his head to 
throb, so that he heard nothing, not even men's 
laughter; but looking up suddenly, he beheld, as in 
a picture, Mrs. Lovell with some gentlemen walking 
their horses toward him. The lady gazed softly over 
his head, letting her eyes drop a quiet recognition 
in passing ; one or two of the younger gentlemen 
stared mockingly. 

Edward Blancove was by Mrs. Lovell's side. His 
eyes fixed upon Robert with steady scrutiny, and 

221 




RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Robert gave him a similar inspection, though not 

MrsSveii knowing why. It was like a child's open look, and 

shows a Tame he was feeling childish, as if his brain had ceased 

^"**® to act. One of the older gentlemen, with a military 

aspect, squared his shoulders, and touching an end 

of his moustache, said, half challengingly : 

' You are dismounted to-day ? * 

* I have only one horse,' Robert simply replied. 
Algernon Blancove came last. He neither spoke nor 

looked at his enemy, but warily clutched his whip. 
All went by, riding into line some paces distant ; and 
again they laughed as they bent forward to the lady, 
shouting. 

*Odd, to have out the horses on a day like this,' 
Robert thought, and resumed his musing as before. 
The lady's track now led him homeward, for he had 
no will of his own. Rounding the lane, he was 
surprised to see Mrs. Boulby by the hedge. She 
bobbed like a beggar woman, with a rueful face. 

* My dear,' she said, in apology for her presence, ' I 
shouldn't ha' interfered, if there was fair play. I 'm 
Englishwoman enough for that. I 'd have stood by, 
as if you was a stranger. Gentlemen always give 
fair play before a woman. That's why come, lest 
this appointment should ha' proved a pitfall to you. 
Now you '11 come home, won't you ; and forgive me ? ' 

* I '11 come to the old Pilot now, mother,' said Robert, 
pressing her hand. 

* That 's right ; and ain't angry with me for following 
of you ? ' 

* Follow your own game, mother.' 

' I did, Robert ; and nice and vexed I am, if I 'm 
correct in what I heard say, as that lady and her 
222 



RHODA FLEMING 

folk passed, never heeding an old woman's ears, chapter 

XX 

They made a bet of you, dear, they did.' ^^^ Loveii 

* I hope the lady won,' said Robert, scarce hearing, shows a Tamo 

* And it was she who won, dear. She was to get 
you to meet her, and give up, and be beaten like, as 
far as I could understand their chatter; gentlefolks 
laugh so when they talk ; and they can afford to 
laugh, for they has the best of it. But I'm vexed; 
just as if I 'd felt big and had burst. I want you to 
be peaceful, of course I do ; but I don't like my boy 
made a bet of.' 

* Oh, tush, mother,' said Robert impatiently. 

' I heard 'em, my dear ; and complimenting the lady 
they was, as they passed me. If it vexes you my 
thinking it, I won't, dear ; I reelly won't. I see it 
lowers you, for there you are at your hat again. It 
is lowering, to be made a bet of. I 've that spirit, 
that if you was well and sound, I 'd rather have you 
fighting 'em. She 's a pleasant enough lady to look 
at, not a doubt ; small-boned, and slim, and fair.' 

Robert asked which way they had gone. 

* Back to the stables, my dear ; I heard 'em say so, 
because one gentleman said that the spectacle was 
over, and the lady had gained the day ; and the snow 
was balling in the horses' feet ; and go they 'd better, 
before my lord saw them out. And another said, 
you were a wild man she 'd tamed ; and they said, 
you ought to wear a collar, with Mrs. Lovell's, her 
name, graved on it. But don't you be vexed ; you 
may guess they 're not my Robert's friends. And, I 
do assure you, Robert, your hat 's neat, if you 'd only 
let it be comfortable : such fidgeting worries the brim. 
You 're best in appearance — and I always said it — when 

223 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER stripped for boxing. Hats are gentlemen's things, and 

XX 

Mrs. Loveii bccomes them like as if a title to their heads ; though 
shows a Tame you 'd bear being Sir Robert, that you would ; and for 
that matter, your hat is agreeable to behold, and not 
like the run of our Sunday hats ; only you don't seem 
easy in it. Oh, oh ! my tongue 's a yard too long. 
It's the poor head aching, and me to forget it. It's 
because you never will act invalidy ; and I remember 
how handsome you were one day in the field behind 
our house, when you boxed a wager with Simon 
Billet, the waterman; and you was made a bet of 
then, for my husband betted on you ; and that 's 
what made me think of comparisons of you out of 
your hat and you in it.' 

Thus did Mrs. Boulby chatter along the way. There 
was an eminence a little out of the road, overlooking 
the Fairly stables. Robert left her and went to this 
point, from whence he beheld the horsemen with the 
grooms at the horses' heads. 

^ Thank God, I 've only been a fool for five minutes ! ' 
he summed up his sensations at the sight. He shut 
his eyes, praying with all his might never to meet Mrs. 
Lovell more. It was impossible for him to combat 
the suggestion that she had befooled him ; yet his 
chivalrous faith in women led him to believe, that 
as she knew Dahlia's history, she would certainly do 
her best for the poor girl, and keep her word to him. 
The throbbing of his head stopped all further thought. 
It had become violent. He tried to gather his ideas, 
but the effort was like that of a light dreamer to catch 
the sequence of a dream, when blackness follows close 
up, devouring all that is said and done. In despair, he 
thought with kindness of Mrs. Boulby's brandy. 
224 



RHODA FLEMING 

* Mother,* he said, rejoining her, *IVe got a notion chapter 
brandy can't hurt a man when he 's in bed. I '11 go to MrsSveii 
bed, and you shall brew me some ; and you '11 let no shows a Tame 
one come nigh me ; and if I talk light-headed, it 's 

blank paper and scribble, mind that.' 

The widow promised devoutly to obey all his direc- 
tions ; but he had begun to talk light-headed before he 
was undressed. He called on the name of a Major 
Waring, of whom Mrs. Boulby had heard him speak 
tenderly as a gentleman not ashamed to be his friend ; 
first reproaching him for not being by, and then by 
the name of Percy, calling to him endearingly, and 
reproaching himself for not having written to him. 

* Two to one, and in the dark ! ' he kept moaning : 

* and I one to twenty, Percy, all in broad day. Was it 
fair, I ask ? ' 

Robert's outcries became anything but * blank paper 
and scribble' to the widow, when he mentioned Nic 
Sedgett's name, and said : ' Look over his right temple : 
he 's got my mark a second time.' 

Hanging by his bedside, Mrs. Boulby strung together, 
bit by bit, the history of that base midnight attack, 
which had sent her glorious boy bleeding to her. Nic 
Sedgett, she could understand, was the accomplice of 
one of the Fairly gentlemen ; but of which one, she 
could not discover, and consequently set him down 
as Mr. Algernon Blancove. 

By diligent inquiry, she heard that Algernon had 
been seen in company with the infamous Nic, and like- 
wise that the countenance of Nicodemus was reduced 
to accept the consolation of a poultice, which was con- 
firmation sufficient. By nightfall Robert was in the 
doctor's hands, unconscious of Mrs. Boulby's breach 
9— P 225 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHARTER of agreement. His father and his aunt were informed 
Mrs'Loveii ^^ ^^® condition, and prepared, both of them, to bow- 
shows a Tame their heads to the close of an ungodly career. It was 
^^"*® known over Warbeach, that Robert lay in danger, and 
believed that he was dying. 



CHAPTER XXI 

Gives a glimpse of what poor Villanies 
the Story contains 

Mrs. Boulby's ears had not deceived her ; it had been 
a bet : and the day would have gone disastrously with 
Robert, if Mrs. Lovell had not won her bet. What 
was heroism to Warbeach, appeared very outrageous 
blackguardism up at Fairly. It was there believed by 
the gentlemen, though rather against evidence, that 
the man was a sturdy ruffian, and an infuriated sot. 
The first suggestion was to drag him before the 
magistrates ; but against this Algernon protested, de- 
claring his readiness to defend himself, with so vehe- 
ment a magnanimity, that it was clearly seen the man 
had a claim on him. Lord Elling, however, when he 
was told of these systematic assaults upon one of his 
guests, announced his resolve to bring the law into 
operation. Algernon heard it as the knell to his visit. 
He was too happy, to go away willingly ; and the 
great Jew City of London was exceedingly hot for him 
at that period ; but to stay and risk an exposure of 
his extinct military career, was not possible. In his 
despair, he took Mrs. Lovell entirely into his con- 
fidence ; in doing which, he only filled up the outlines 
226 



RHODA FLEMING 

of what she already knew concerning Edward. He was chapter 
too useful to the lady for her to afford to let him go. oivesagHmpse 
No other youth called her * angel' for listening com- of what Poor 
placently to strange stories of men and their dilemmas ; story^contains 
no one fetched and carried for her like Algernon ; and 
she was a woman who cherished dog-like adoration, 
and could not part with it. She had also the will to 
reward it. 

At her intercession, Robert was spared an introduc- 
tion to the magistrates. She made light of his mis- 
demeanours, assuring everybody that so splendid a 
horseman deserved to be dealt with differently from 
other offenders. The gentlemen who waited upon 
Farmer Eccles went in obedience to her orders. 

Then came the scene on Ditley Marsh, described to 
that assembly at the * Pilot,' by Stephen Bilton, when 
she perceived that Robert was manageable in silken 
trammels, and made a bet that she would show him 
tamed. She won her bet, and saved the gentlemen 
from soiling their hands, for which they had conceived 
a pressing necessity, and they thanked her, and paid 
their money over to Algernon, whom she constituted 
her treasurer. She was called the * man-tamer,' grace- 
fully acknowledging the compliment. Colonel Barclay, 
the moustachioed horseman, who had spoken the few 
words to Robert in passing, now remarked that there 
was an end of the military profession. 

* I surrender my sword,' he said gallantly. 

Another declared that ladies would now act in lieu 
of causing an appeal to arms. 

^ Similia similibus, etc.,' said Edward. * They can, 
apparently, cure what they originate.' 

'Ah, the poor sex! ' Mrs. Lovell sighed. * When we 

227 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER bring the millennium to you, I believe you will still 
GivesagHmpse l^^ve a word against Eve/ 
of what Poor The whole parade back to the stables was marked 

Villanies the * .. i 

Story contains ^Y pretty speeches. 

* By Jove ! but he ought to have gone down on his 
knees, like a horse when you've tamed him,' said 
Lord Suckling, the young guardsman. 

' I would mark a distinction between a horse and a 
brave man. Lord Suckling,' said the lady; and such 
was Mrs. Lovell's dignity when an allusion to Robert 
was forced on her, and her wit and ease were so ad- 
mirable, that none of those who rode with her thought 
of sitting in judgement on her conduct. Women can 
make for themselves new spheres, new laws, if they 
will assume their right to be eccentric as an unques- 
tionable thing, and always reserve -a season for show- 
ing forth like the conventional women of society. 

The evening was Mrs. Lovell's time for this im- 
portant re-establishment of her position ; and many 
a silly youth who had sailed pleasantly with her all 
the day, was wrecked when he tried to carry on the 
topics where she reigned the lady of the drawing-room. 
Moreover, not being eccentric from vanity, but simply 
to accommodate what had once been her tastes, and 
were now her necessities, she avoided slang, and all 
the insignia of eccentricity. 

Thus she mastered the secret of keeping the young 
men respectfully enthusiastic ; so that their irrepres- 
sible praises did not (as is usual when these are in 
acclamation) drag her to their level ; and the female 
world, with which she was perfectly feminine, and 
as silkenly insipid every evening of her life as was 
needed to restore her reputation, admitted that she 
228 



RHODA FLEMING 

belonged to it, which is everything to an adventur- chapter 
ous spirit of that sex : indeed, the sole secure basis GivesagUmpse 

of operations. of what Poor 

You are aware that men's faith in a woman whom sto^contains 
her sisters discountenance, and partially repudiate, is 
uneasy, however deeply they may be charmed. On 
the other hand, she may be guilty of prodigious oddities 
without much disturbing their reverence, while she 
is in the feminine circle. 

But what fatal breath was it coming from Mrs. 
Lovell that was always inflaming men to mutual 
animosity? What encouragement had she given to 
Algernon, that Lord Suckling should be jealous of 
him? And what to Lord Suckling, that Algernon 
should loathe the sight of the young lord ? And why 
was each desirous of showing his manhood in combat 
before an eminent peacemaker ? 

Edward laughed — * Ah-ha ! ' and rubbed his hands 
as at a special confirmation of his prophecy, when 
Algernon came into his room and said, * I shall fight 
that fellow Suckling. Hang me if I can stand his im- 
pudence ! I want to have a shot at a man of my own 
set, just to let Peggy Lovell see ! I know what she 
thinks.' 

* Just to let Mrs. Lovell see ! ' Edward echoed. * She 
has seen it lots of times, my dear Algy. Come ; this 
looks lively. I was sure she would soon be sick of 
the water-gruel of peace.' 

*I tell you she's got nothing to do with it, Ned. 
Don't be confoundedly unjust. She didn't tell me to 
go and seek him. How can she help his whispering 
to her ? And then she looks over at me, and I swear 
I 'm not going to be defended by a woman. She must 

229 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER fancy I haven't got the pluck of a flea. I know what 

XXI o *. 

Gives a glimpse ^®^ ^^®^ of young fcllows IS. Why, shc said to me, 
of what Poor when Suckling went off from her, the other day, 
storTcontains " Thcsc are our Guards." I shall fight him.' 

*Do,' said Edward. 

' Will you take a challenge ? ' 

* I 'm a lawyer, Mr. Mars.' 

* You won't take a challenge for a friend, when he 's 
insulted ? ' 

* I reply again, I am a lawyer. But this is what I '11 
do, if you like. I '11 go to Mrs. Lovell, and inform her 
that it is youjr desire to gain her esteem by fighting 
with pistols. That will accomplish the purpose you 
seek. It will possibly disappoint her, for she will 
have to stop the affair; but women are born to be 
disappointed — they want so much.' 

' I '11 fight him some way or other,' said Algernon, 
glowering; and then his face became bright: *I say, 
didn't she manage that business beautifully this morn- 
ing? Not another woman in the world could have 
done it.' 

* Oh, Una and the Lion ! Mrs. Valentine and Orson ! 
Did you bet with the rest ? ' his cousin asked. 

* I lost my tenner ; but what 's that ! ' 

'There will be an additional five to hand over to 
the man Sedgett. What 's that ! ' 

* No, hang it ! ' Algernon shouted. 

* You 've paid your ten for the shadow cheerfully. 
Pay your five for the substance.' 

* Do you mean to say that Sedgett ' Algernon 

stared. 

' Miracles, if you come to examine them, Algy, have 
generally had a pathway prepared for them ; and the 
230 



RHODA FLEMING 

miracle of the power of female persuasion exhibited chapter 

XXI 

this morning was not quite independent of the pre- Gives a glimpse 
liminary agency of a scoundrel.' of what Poor 

* So that 's why you didn't bet.' Algernon signified storyTontains 
the opening of his intelligence with his eyelids, pro- 
nouncing *by jingos' and 'by Joves,' to ease the 

sudden rush of ideas within him. 'You might have 
let me into the secret, Ned. I 'd lose any number of 
tens to Peggy Lovell, but a fellow don't like to be in 
the dark.' 

* Except, Algy, that when you carry light, you 're a 
general illuminator. Let the matter drop. Sedgett 
has saved you from annoyance. Take him his five 
pounds.' 

' Annoyance be hanged, my good Ned ! ' Algernon 
was aroused to reply. ' I don't complain, and I 've 
done my best to stand in front of you ; and as you 've 
settled the fellow, I say nothing ; but, between us two, 
who 's the guilty party, and who 's the victim ? ' 

* Didn't he tell you he had you in his power ? ' 

* I don't remember that he did.' 

*Well, I heard him. The sturdy cur refused to be 
bribed, so there was only one way of quieting him; 
and you see what a thrashing does for that sort of 
beast. I, Algy, never abandon a friend; mark that. 
Take the five pounds to Sedgett.' 

Algernon strode about the room. * First of all, you 
stick me up in a theatre, so that I 'm seen with a girl ; 
and then you get behind me, and let me be pelted,' he 
began grumbling. * And ask a fellow for money, who 
hasn't a farthing ! I sha'n't literally have a farthing 
till that horse " Templemore " runs ; and then, by 
George ! I '11 pay my debts. Jews are awful things ! ' 

231 



feluBRARY Jol 

\*1 i^^m^^^' J\. 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER < How much do you require at present ? * said Edward, 

GivesagHmpse provoking his appetite for a loan. 

of what Poor < Qh, fifty — that is, just now. More like a thousand 

story contains when I get to town. And where it 's to come from ! — 

but never mind. Ton my soul, I pity the fox I run 

down here. I feel I 'm exactly in his case in London. 

However, if I can do you any service, Ned ' 

Edward laughed. *You might have done me the 
service of not excusing yourself to the squire when 
he came here, in such a way as to implicate me.' 

* But I was so tremendously badgered, Ned.' 

* You had a sort of gratification in letting the squire 
crow over his brother. And he did crow for a time.' 

* On my honour, Ned, as to crowing ! he went away 
cursing at me. Peggy Lovell managed it somehow for 
you. I was really awfully badgered.' 

* Yes ; but you know what a man my father is. He 
hasn't the squire's philosophy in those affairs.' 

* 'Pon my soul, Mr. Ned, I never guessed it before ; 
but I rather fancy you got clear with Sir Billy the 
banker by washing in my basin — eh, did you ? ' 

Edward looked straight at his cousin, saying, *You 
deserved worse than that. You were treacherous. 
You proved you were not to be trusted; and yet, 
you see, I trust you. Call it my folly. Of course 
(and I don't mind telling you) I used my wits to 
turn the point of the attack. I may be what they 
call unscrupulous when I'm surprised. I have to 
look to money as well as you; and if my father 
thought it went in a — what he considers — wrong 
direction, the source would be choked by paternal 
morality. You betrayed me. Listen.' 

* I tell you, Ned, I merely said to my governor ' 

232 



RHODA FLEMING 

* Listen to me. You betrayed me. I defended my- chapter 
self; that is, I've managed so that I may still be ^i.^esj^gii^pse 
of service to you. It was a near shave; but you of what Poor 
now see the value of having a character with one's storyVontains 
father. Just open my writing-desk there, and toss 
out the cheque-book. I confess I can't see why you 
should have objected — but let that pass. How much 
do you want? Fifty? Say forty-five, and five I'll 
give you to pay to Sedgett — making fifty. Eighty 
before, and fifty — one hundred and thirty. Write 
that you owe me that sum, on a piece of paper. I 
can't see why you should wish to appear so un- 
commonly virtuous.' 

Algernon scribbled the written acknowledgement, 
which he despised himself for giving, and the re- 
ceiver for taking, but was always ready to give for 
the money, and said, as he put the cheque in his 
purse: *It was this infernal fellow completely upset 
me. If you were worried by a bull-dog, by Jove, 
Ned, you'd lose your coolness. He bothered my 
head off. Ask me now, and I'll do anything on 
earth for you. My back's broad. Sir Billy can't 
think worse of me than he does. Do you want to 
break positively with that pretty rival to Peggy L.? 
I 've got a scheme to relieve you, my poor old Ned, 
and make everybody happy. I '11 lay the foundations 
of a fresh and brilliant reputation for myself.' 

Algernon took a chair. Edward was fathoms deep 
in his book. 

The former continued : ^ I 'd touch on the money- 
question last, with any other fellow than you ; but 
you always know that money 's the hinge, and no- 
thing else lifts a man out of a scrape. It costs a 

233 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER stiff pull on your banker, and that reminds me, you 
GivesagLpse <^o^^^^'* ^o to Sir Billy for it; you'd have to draw 
of what Poor in advance, by degrees: anyhow, look here: — There 
storyTontahis ^^® ^^^s of young farmers who want to emigrate and 
want wives and money. I know one. It's no use 
going into particulars, but it's worth thinking over. 
Life is made up of mutual help, Ned. You can help 
another fellow better than yourself. As for me, when 
I 'm in a hobble, I give you my word of honour, I 'm 
just like a baby, and haven't an idea at my own dis- 
posal. The same with others. You can^ manage 
without somebody's assistance. What do you say, 
old boy?' 

Edward raised his head from his book. 'Some 
views of life deduced from your private experience ? ' 
he observed; and Algernon cursed at book-worms, 
who would never take hints, and left him. 

But when he was by himself, Edward pitched his 
book upon the floor and sat reflecting. The sweat 
started on his forehead. He was compelled to look 
into his black volume and study it. His desire was 
to act humanely and generously ; but the question 
inevitably recurred : * How can I utterly dash my 
prospects in the world?' It would be impossible 
to bring Dahlia to great houses; and he liked great 
houses and the charm of mixing among delicately- 
bred women. On the other hand, lawyers have 
married beneath them — married cooks, housemaids, 
governesses, and so forth. And what has a lawyer 
to do with a dainty lady, who will constantly distract 
him with finicking civilities and speculations in un- 
profitable regions ? What he does want is a woman 
amiable as a surface of parchment, serviceable as 
234 



RHODA FLEMING 

his inkstand ; one who will be like the wig in which chapter 
he closes his forensic term, disreputable from over- civesagHmpse 
wear, but suited to the purpose. of what Poor 

* Ah ! if I meant to be nothing but a lawyer ! ' stonr"contains 
Edward stopped the flow of this current in Dahlia's 
favour. His passion for her was silent. Was it 
dead ? It was certainly silent. Since Robert had 
come down to play his wild game of persecution at 
Fairly, the simple idea of Dahlia had been Edward's 
fever. He detested brute force, with a finely-witted 
man's full loathing ; and Dahlia's obnoxious champion 
had grown to be associated in his mind with Dahlia. 
He swept them both from his recollection abhorrently, 
for in his recollection he could not divorce them. He 
pretended to suppose that Dahlia, whose only reproach 
to him was her suffering, participated in the scheme 
to worry him. He could even forget her beauty — 
forget all, save the unholy fetters binding him. She 
seemed to imprison him in bare walls. He meditated 
on her character. She had no strength. She was 
timid, comfort-loving, fond of luxury, credulous, pre- 
posterously conventional ; that is, desirous more than 
the ordinary run of women of being hedged about 
and guarded by ceremonies — *mere ceremonies,' said 
Edward, forgetting the notion he entertained of women 
not so protected. But it may be, that in playing the 
part of fool and coward, we cease to be mindful of 
the absolute necessity for sheltering the weak from 
that monstrous allied army, the cowards and the fools. 
He admitted even to himself that he had deceived her, 
at the same time denouncing her unheard-of capacity 
of belief, which had placed him in a miserable hobble, 
and that was the truth. 

235 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Now, men confessing themselves in a miserable 

XXI 

Gives a glimpse Gobble, and knowing they are guilty of the state of 
of what Poor things lamented by them, intend to drown that part 
story^contains of their nature which disturbs them by its outcry. 
The submission to a tangle that could be cut through 
instantaneously by any exertion of a noble will, con- 
victs them. They had better not confide, even to 
their secret hearts, that they are afflicted by their 
conscience and the generosity of their sentiments, 
for it will be only to say that these high qualities 
are on the failing side. Their inclination, under the 
circumstances, is generally base, and no less a coun- 
sellor than uncorrupted common sense, when they are 
in such a hobble, will sometimes advise them to be 
base. But, in admitting the plea which common sense 
puts forward on their behalf, we may fairly ask them 
to be masculine in their baseness. Or, in other words, 
since they must be selfish, let them be so without the 
poltroonery of selfishness. Edward's wish was to be 
perfectly just, as far as he could be now — ^just to him- 
self as well ; for how was he to prove of worth and 
aid to any one depending on him, if he stood crippled ? 
Just, also, to his family ; to his possible posterity ; 
and just to Dahlia. His task was to reconcile the 
variety of justness due upon all sides. The struggle, 
we will assume, was severe, for he thought so ; he 
thought of going to Dahlia and speaking the word of 
separation ; of going to her family and stating his 
offence, without personal exculpation ; thus masculine 
in baseness he was in idea ; but poltroonery triumphed, 
the picture of himself facing his sin and its victims 
dismayed him, and his struggle ended in his consider- 
ing as to the fit employment of one thousand pounds 
236 



RHODA FLEMING 

in his possession, the remainder of a small legacy, chapter 

XXI 

hitherto much cherished. Givesagiimpse 

A day later, Mrs. Lovell said to him: 'Have you of what Poor 
heard of that unfortunate young man ? I am told that storTcontains 
he lies in great danger from a blow on the back of his 
head. He looked ill when I saw him, and however 
mad he may be, I 'm sorry harm should have come to 
one who is really brave. Gentle means are surely 
best. It is so with horses, it must be so with men. 
As to women, I don't pretend to unriddle them.' 

* Gentle means are decidedly best,' said Edward, 
perceiving that her little dog Algy had carried news 
to her, and that she was setting herself to fathom 
him. *You gave an eminent example of it yesterday. 
I was so sure of the result that I didn't bet against 
you.' 

* Why not have backed me ? * 

The hard young legal face withstood the attack of 
her soft blue eyes, out of which a thousand needles 
flew, seeking a weak point in the mask. 

* The compliment was, to incite you to a superhuman 
effort.' 

* Then why not pay the compliment ? ' 

* I never pay compliments to transparent merit ; I do 
not hold candles to lamps.' 

* True,' said she. 

* And as gentle means are so admirable, it would be 
as well to stop incision and imbruing between those 
two boys.' 

* Which ? ' she asked innocently. 

* Suckling and Algy.' 

* Is it possible ? They are such boys.' 

' Exactly of the kind to do it. Don't you know ? ' 

237 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER and Edward explained elaborately and cruelly the 
Gives a glimpse Character of the boys who rushed into conflicts, 
of what Poor Colour deep as evening red confused her cheeks, and 
storyTontains shc Said, ' We must stop them.' 

* Alas ! ' he shook his head ; * if it 's not too late.* 

* It never is too late.' 

* Perhaps not, when the embodiment of gentle means 
is so determined.' 

* Come ; I believe they are in the billiard-room now, 
and you shall see,' she said. 

The pair were found in the billiard-room, even as 
a pair of terriers that remember a bone. Mrs. Lovell 
proposed a game, and offered herself for partner to 
Lord Suckling. 

* Till total defeat do us part,' the young nobleman 
acquiesced ; and total defeat befell them. During the 
play of the balls, Mrs. Lovell threw a jealous intent- 
ness of observation upon all the strokes made by 
Algernon ; saying nothing, but just looking at him 
when he did a successful thing. She winked at some 
quiet stately betting that went on between him and 
Lord Suckling. 

They were at first preternaturally polite and formal 
toward one another ; by degrees, the influence at work 
upon them was manifested in a thaw of their stiff 
demeanour, and they fell into curt dialogues, which 
Mrs. Lovell gave herself no concern to encourage too 
early. 

Edward saw, and was astonished himself to feel that 
she had ceased to breathe that fatal inciting breath, 
which made men vindictively emulous of her favour, 
and mad to match themselves for a claim to the chief 
smile. No perceptible change was displayed. She 
238 



RHODA FLEMING 

was Mrs. Lovell still ; vivacious and soft ; flame- chapter 

XXI 

coloured, with the arrowy eyelashes; a pleasant com- Qivesagiimpse 
panion, who did not play the woman obtrusively of what Poor 
among men, and show a thirst for homage. All the story contains 
difference appeared to be, that there was an absence 
as of some evil spiritual emanation. 

And here a thought crossed him — one of the memor- 
able little evanescent thoughts which sway us by our 
chance weakness ; * Does she think me wanting in 
physical courage ? * 

Now, though the difference between them had been 
owing to a scornful remark that she had permitted 
herself to utter, on his refusal to accept a quarrel 
with one of her numerous satellites, his knowledge 
of her worship of brains, and his pride in his posses- 
sion of the burdensome weight, had quite precluded 
his guessing that she might haply suppose him to 
be deficient in personal bravery. He was astounded 
by the reflection that she had thus misjudged him. It 
was distracting ; sober-thoughted as he was by nature. 
He watched the fair simplicity of her new manner with 
a jealous eye. Her management of the two youths was 
exquisite ; but to him, Edward, she had never conde- 
scended to show herself thus mediating and amiable. 
Why? Clearly, because she conceived that he had 
no virile fire in his composition. Did the detestable 
little devil think silly duelling a display of valour ? 
Did the fair seraph think him anything less than 
a man? 

How beautifully hung the yellow loop of her hair 
as she leaned over the board ! How gracious she was 
and like a Goddess with these boys, as he called them ! 
She rallied her partner, not letting him forget that he 

239 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER had the honour of being her partner ; while she ap- 

XXI 

Gives a glimpse P®^^^^ cnvious of Algernon's skill, and talked to both 
of what Poor and got them upon common topics, and laughed, and 
story°contains ^as like a fair English flower of womanhood ; nothing 
deadly. 

* There, Algy ; you have beaten us. I don't think 
I '11 have Lord Suckling for my partner any more,' she 
said, putting up her wand, and pouting. 

* You don't bear malice ? ' said Algernon, revived. 

* There is my hand. Now you must play a game 
alone with Lord Suckling, and beat him ; mind you 
beat him, or it will redound to my discredit.' 

With which, she and Edward left them. 

* Algy was a little crestfallen, and no wonder,' she 
said. *He is soon set up again. They will be good 
friends now.' 

* Isn't it odd, that they should be ready to risk their 
lives for trifles ? ' 

Thus Edward tempted her to discuss the subject 
which he had in his mind. 

She felt intuitively the trap in his voice. 

* Ah, yes,' she replied ; * it must be because they 
know their lives are not precious.' 

So utterly at her mercy had he fallen, that her pro- 
nunciation of that word * precious ' carried a severe 
sting to him, and it was not spoken with peculiar 
emphasis ; on the contrary, she wished to indicate 
that she was of his way of thinking, as regarded this 
decayed method of settling disputes. He turned to 
leave her. 

* You go to your Adeline, I presume,' she said. 

* Ah ! that reminds me. I have never thanked you.' 
*For my good services? such as they are. Sir 

240 



RHODA FLEMING 

William will be very happy, and it was for him, a chapter 
little more than for you, that I went out of my way GivesagHmpse 
to be a match-maker.' of what Poor 

* It was her character, of course, that struck you as storyTontahis 
being so eminently suited to mine.' 

* Can I tell what is the character of a girl ? She is 
mild and shy, and extremely gentle. In all probability 
she has a. passion for battles and bloodshed. I judged 
from your father's point of view. She has money, and 
you are to have money ; and the union of money and 
money is supposed to be a good thing. And besides, 
you are variable, and off to-morrow what you are on 
to-day ; is it not so ? and heiresses are never jilted. 
Colonel Barclay is only awaiting your retirement. 
Le rot est mort ; vive le roi ! Heiresses may cry it 
like kingdoms.' 

*I thought,' said Edward meaningly, *the colonel 
had better taste.' 

* Do you not know that my friends are my friends 
because they are not allowed to dream they will do 
anything else ? If they are taken poorly, I commend 
them to a sea-voyage — Africa, the North- West Passage, 
the source of the Nile. Men with their vanity wounded 
may discover wonders ! They return friendly as before, 
whether they have done the Geographical Society a 
service or not. That is, they generally do.' 

* Then I begin to fancy I must try those latitudes.* 

* Oh ! you are my relative.' 

He scarcely knew that he had uttered * Margaret.' 

She replied to it frankly, *Yes, Cousin Ned. You 

have made the voyage, you see, and have come back 

friends with me. The variability of opals! Ah! Sir 

John, you join us in season. We were talking of 

9— Q 241 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER opals. Is the opal a gem that stands to represent 
ni.r.Jl^l».^.. women ? ' 

Gives a glimpse 

of what Poor Sir John Capes smoothed his knuckles with silken 
sto^contains P^lj^s, and with courteous antique grin, responded, 

*It is a gem I would never dare to offer to a lady's 

acceptance/ 

*It is by repute unlucky; so you never can have 

done so.' 

* Exquisite ! ' exclaimed the veteran in smiles, * if 
what you deign to imply were only true ! * 

They entered the drawing-room among the ladies. 
Edward whispered in Mrs. Lovell's ear, *He is in 
need of the voyage.' 

* He is very near it,' she answered in the same key, 
and swam into general conversation. 

Her cold wit, Satanic as the gleam of it struck 
through his mind, gave him a throb of desire to gain 
possession of her, and crush her. 



CHAPTER XXII 
Edward takes his Course 

The writing of a letter to Dahlia had previously been 
attempted and abandoned as a sickening task. Like 
an idle boy with his holiday imposition, Edward 
shelved it among the nightmares, saying, ^How can 
I sit down and lie to her ! ' and thinking that silence 
would prepare her bosom for the coming truth. 

Silence is commonly the slow poison used by those 
who mean to murder love. There is nothing violent 
about it ; no shock is given ; Hope is not abruptly 
242 



RHODA FLEMING 

strangled, but merely dreams of evil, and fights with chapter 
gradually stifling shadows. When the last convul- Edward takes 
sions come they are not terrific ; the frame has been ws course 
weakened for dissolution ; love dies like natural 
decay. It seems the kindest way of doing a cruel 
thing. But Dahlia wrote, crying out her agony at 
the torture. Possibly your nervously - organized 
natures require a modification of the method. 
Edward now found himself able to conduct a cor- 
respondence. He despatched the following : — 

* My dear Dahlia, 

' Of course I cannot expect you to be aware of the 
bewildering occupations of a country house, where a 
man has literally not five minutes' time to call his 
own; so I pass by your reproaches. My father has 
gone at last. He has manifested an extraordinary 
liking for my society, and I am to join him else- 
where — perhaps run over to Paris {your city) — but 
at present for a few days I am my own master, and 
the first thing I do is to attend to your demands: 
not to write "two lines," but to give you a good 
long letter. 

' What on earth makes you fancy me unwell ? You 
know I am never unwell. And as to your nursing me 
— when has there ever been any need for it ? 

*You must positively learn patience. I have been 
absent a week or so, and you talk of coming down 
here and haunting the house ! Such ghosts as you 
meet with strange treatment when they go about un- 
protected, let me give you warning. You have my 
full permission to walk out in the Parks for exercise. 
I think you are bound to do it, for your health's sake. 

243 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER <Pray discontinue that talk about the alteration in 
Edward"akes Y^ur looks. You must learn that you are no longer 

his Course a child. Ccasc to write like a child. If people stare 
at you, as you say, you are very well aware it is 
not because you are becoming plain. You do not 
mean it, I know ; but there is a disingenuousness in 
remarks of this sort that is to me exceedingly dis- 
tasteful. Avoid the shadow of hypocrisy. Women 
are subject to it — and it is quite innocent, no doubt. 
I won't lecture you. 

* My cousin Algernon is here with me. He has not 
spoken of your sister. Your fears in that direction 
are quite unnecessary. He is attached to a female 
cousin of ours, a very handsome person, witty, and 
highly sensible, who dresses as well as the lady you 
talk about having seen one day in Wrexby Church. 
Her lady's-maid is a Frenchwoman, which accounts 
for it. You have not forgotten the boulevards ? 

* I wish you to go on with your lessons in French. 
Educate yourself, and you will rise superior to these 
distressing complaints. I recommend you to read the 
newspapers daily. Buy nice picture-books, if the 
papers are too matter-of-fact for you. By looking 
eternally inward, you teach yourself to fret, and the 
consequence is, or will be, that you wither. No con- 
stitution can stand it. All the ladies here take an 
interest in Parliamentary affairs. They can talk to 
men upon men's themes. It is impossible to explain 
to you how wearisome an everlasting nursery prattle 
becomes. The idea that men ought never to tire of it is 
founded on some queer belief that they are not mortal. 

* Parliament opens in February. My father wishes 
me to stand for Selborough. If he or some one will 

244 



RHODA FLEMING 

do the talking to the tradesmen, and provide the beer chapter 

XXII 

and the bribes, I have no objection. In that case my Edward takes 
Law goes to the winds. I 'm bound to make a show ws course 
of obedience, for he has scarcely got over my summer's 
trip. He holds me a prisoner to him for heaven knows 
how long — it may be months. 

'As for the heiress whom he has here to make a 
match for me, he and I must have a pitched battle 
about her by and by. At present my purse insists 
upon my not offending him. When will old men 
understand young ones ? I burn your letters, and 
beg you to follow the example. Old letters are the 
dreariest ghosts in the world, and you cannot keep 
more treacherous rubbish in your possession. A dis- 
covery would exactly ruin me. 

* Your purchase of a black-velvet bonnet with pink 
ribands, was very suitable. Or did you write " blue " 
ribands ? But your complexion can bear anything. 

'You talk of being annoyed when you walk out. 
Remember, that no woman who knows at all how to 
conduct herself need for one moment suffer annoy- 
ance. 

'What is the "feeling" you speak of? I cannot 
conceive any " feeling " that should make you helpless 
when you consider that you are insulted. There are 
women who have natural dignity, and women who 
have none. 

'You ask the names of the gentlemen here: — Lord 
Carey, Lord Wippern (both leave to-morrow). Sir John 
Capes, Colonel Barclay, Lord Suckling. The ladies : — 
Mrs. Gosling, Miss Gosling, Lady Carey. Mrs. Any- 
body — to any extent. 

' They pluck hen's feathers all day and half the 

245 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER night. I see them out, and make my bow to the next 
EdwfrTtakes ^^^tch of visitors, and then I don't know where I am. 

his Course < Read poetry, if it makes up for my absence, as you 
say. Repeat it aloud, minding the pulsation of feet. 
Go to the theatre now and then, and take your land- 
lady with you. If she *s a cat, fit one of your dresses 
on the servant girl and take her. You only want a 
companion — a dummy will do. Take a box and sit 
behind the curtain, back to the audience. 

* I wrote to my wine-merchant to send Champagne 
and Sherry. I hope he did : the Champagne in pints 
and half-pints ; if not, return them instantly. I know 
how Economy, sitting solitary, poor thing, would not 
dare to let the froth of a whole pint bottle fly out. 

* Be an obedient girl and please me. 

* Your stern tutor, 

^ Edward the First.' 

He read this epistle twice over to satisfy himself 
that it was a warm effusion, and not too tender ; and 
it satisfied him. By a stretch of imagination, he could 
feel that it represented him to her as in a higher 
atmosphere, considerate for her, and not so intimate 
that she could deem her spirit to be sharing it. 
Another dose of silence succeeded this discreet ad- 
ministration of speech. 

Dahlia replied with letter upon letter; blindly im- 
passioned, and again singularly cold ; but with no 
reproaches. She was studying, she said. Her head 
ached a little; only a little. She walked; she read 
poetry ; she begged him to pardon her for not drinking 
wine. She was glad that he burnt her letters, which 
were so foolish that if she could have the courage 
246 



RHODA FLEMING 

to look at them after they were written, they would chapter 



XXII 

Edward takes 



never be sent. He was slightly revolted by one ex 
clamation : * How ambitious you are ! ' his course 

* Because I cannot sit down for life in a London 
lodging-house ! ' he thought, and eyed her distantly 
as a poor good creature who had already accepted 
her distinctive residence in another sphere than his. 
From such a perception of her humanity, it was 
natural that his livelier sense of it should diminish. 
He felt that he had awakened ; and he shook her off. 

And now he set to work to subdue Mrs. Lovell. 
His own subjugation was the first fruit of his effort. 
It was quite unacknowledged by him : but when two 
are at this game, the question arises — * Which can 
live without the other ? ' and horrid pangs smote him 
to hear her telling musically of the places she was 
journeying to, the men she would see, and the chances 
of their meeting again before he was married to the 
heiress Adeline. 

*I have yet to learn that I am engaged to her,' he 
said. 

Mrs. Lovell gave him a fixed look : 

* She has a half-brother.' 
He stepped away in a fury. 

* Devil ! ' he muttered, absolutely muttered it, know- 
ing that he fooled and frowned like a stage-hero in 
stagey heroics. *You think to hound me into this 
brutal stupidity of fighting, do you ? Upon my 
honour,' he added in his natural manner, 'I believe 
she does, though ! ' 

But the look became his companion. It touched 
and called up great vanity in his breast, and not till 
then could he placably confront the look. He tried 

247 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER a course of reading. Every morning he was down in 
Edwar?takes *^® library, looking old in an arm-chair over his book ; 
his Course an intent abstracted figure. 

Mrs. Lovell would enter and eye him carelessly; 
utter^little commonplaces and go forth. The silly 
words struck on his brain. The book seemed hollow ; 
sounded hollow as he shut it. This woman breathed 
of^^active striving life. She was a spur to black 
energies ; a plumed glory ; impulsive to chivalry. 
Everything she said and did held men in scales, and 
approved or rejected them. 

Intoxication followed this new conception of her. 
He lost altogether his right judgement ; even the 
cooler afterthoughts were lost. What sort of man 
had Harry been, her first husband ? A dashing soldier, 
a quarrelsome duellist, a dull dog. But, dull to her ? 
She, at least, was reverential to the memory of him. 

She lisped now and then of * my husband,' very 
prettily, and with intense provocation; and yet she 
worshipped brains. Evidently she thirsted for that 
rare union of brains and bravery in a man, and would 
never surrender till she had discovered it. Perhaps 
she fancied it did not exist. It might be that she took 
Edward as the type of brains, and Harry of bravery, 
and supposed that the two qualities were not to be 
had actually in conjunction. 

Her admiration of his (Edward's) wit, therefore, 
only strengthened the idea she entertained of his 
deficiency in that other companion manly virtue. 

Edward must have been possessed, for he ground 

his teeth villanously in supposing himself the victim 

of this outrageous suspicion. And how to prove it 

false ? How to prove it false in a civilized age, among 

248 



RHODA FLEMING 

sober-living men and women, with whom the violent chapter 

XXII 

assertion of bravery would certainly imperil his claim Edward takes 
to brains? His head was like a stew-pan over the his course 
fire, bubbling endlessly. 

He railed at her to Algernon, and astonished the 
youth, who thought them in a fair way to make an 
alliance. 'Milk and capsicums,' he called her, and 
compared her to bloody mustard-haired Saxon Queens 
of history, and was childishly spiteful. And Mrs. 
Lovell had it all reported to her, as he was quite 
aware. 

*The woman seeking for an anomaly wants a 
master.' 

With this pompous aphorism, he finished his read- 
ing of the fair Enigma. 

Words big in the mouth serve their turn when 
there is no way of satisfying the intelligence. 

To be her master, however, one must not begin 
by writhing as her slave. 

The attempt to read an inscrutable woman allows 
her to dominate us too commandingly. So the lordly 
mind takes her in a hard grasp, cracks the shell, and 
drawing forth the kernel, says, *This was all the 
puzzle.' 

Doubtless it is the fate which women like Mrs. 
Lovell provoke. The truth was, that she could read 
a character when it was under her eyes; but its 
yesterday and to-morrow were a blank. She had 
no imaginative hold on anything. For which reason 
she was always requiring tangible signs of virtues 
that she esteemed. 

The thirst for the shows of valour and wit was 
insane with her ; but she asked for nothing that she 

249 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER herself did not give in abundance, and with beauty 
EdwS"akes Superadded. Her propensity to bet sprang of her 
his Course passion for combat; she was not greedy of money, 
or reckless in using it; but a difference of opinion 
arising, her^ instinct forcibly prompted her . to back 
her own. If the stake was the risk of a lover*s life, 
she was ready to put down the stake, and would 
have marvelled contemptuously at the lover com- 
plaining. * Sheep ! sheep ! ' she thought of those 
who dared not fight, and had a wavering tendency to 
affix the epithet to those who simply did not fight. 

Withal, Mrs. Lovell was a sensible person; clear- 
headed and shrewd ; logical, too, more than the run 
of her sex : I may say, profoundly practical. So much 
so, that she systematically reserved the after-years 
for enlightenment upon two or three doubts of her- 
self, which struck her in the calm of her spirit, from 
time to time. 

* France,' Edward called her, in one of their col- 
loquies. 

It was an illuminating title. She liked the French 
(though no one was keener for the honour of her 
own country in opposition to them), she liked their 
splendid boyishness, their unequalled devotion, their 
merciless intellects ; the oneness of the nation when 
the sword is bare and pointing to chivalrous enterprise. 

She liked their fine varnish of sentiment, which 
appears so much on the surface that Englishmen 
suppose it to have nowhere any depth; as if the 
outer coating must necessarily exhaust the stock, or 
as if what is at the source of our being can never 
be made visible. 

She had her imagination of them as of a streaming 
250 



RHODA FLEMING 

banner in the jaws of storm, with snows among the chapter 
cloud - rents and lightning in the chasms : — which gdwarTtakes 
image may be accounted for by the fact that when his Course 
a girl she had in adoration kissed the feet of Napoleon, 
the giant of the later ghosts of history. 

It was a princely compliment. She received it 
curtseying, and disarmed the intended irony. In 
reply, she called him 'Great Britain.* I regret to 
say that he stood less proudly for his nation. Indeed, 
he flushed. He remembered articles girding at the 
policy of peace at any price, and half felt that Mrs. 
Lovell had meant to crown him with a Quaker's hat. 
His title fell speedily into disuse ; but, * Yes, France,' 
and *No, France,' continued, his effort being to fix 
the epithet to frivolous allusions, from which her 
ingenuity rescued it honourably. 

Had she ever been in love ? He asked her the 
question. She stabbed him with so straightforward 
an affirmative that he could not conceal the wound. 

* Have I not been married ? ' she said. 

He began to experience the fretful craving to see 
the antecedents of the torturing woman spread out 
before him. He conceived a passion for her girlhood. 
He begged for portraits of her as a girl. She showed 
him the portrait of Harry Lovell in a locket. He 
held the locket between his fingers. Dead Harry 
was kept very warm. Could brains ever touch her 
emotions as bravery had done? 

* Where are the brains I boast of?' he groaned, in 
the midst of these sensational extravagances. 

The lull of action was soon to be disturbed. A 
letter was brought to him. 
He opened it and read — 

251 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER ' Mr. Edward Blancove, 

XXII 

Edward takes * When you rode by me under Fairly Park, I did not 
his Course know you. I can give you a medical certificate that 
since then I have been in the doctor's hands. I know 
you now. I call upon you to meet me, with what 
weapons you like best, to prove that you are not a 
midnight assassin. The place shall be where you 
choose to appoint. If you decline, I will make you 
publicly acknowledge what you have done. If you 
answer, that I am not a gentleman and you are one, 
I say that you have attacked me in the dark, when I 
was on horseback, and you are now my equal, if I like 
to think so. You will not talk about the law after 
that night. The man you employed I may punish or 
I may leave, though he struck the blow. But I will meet 
you. To-morrow, a friend of mine, who is a major in 
the army, will be down here, and will call on you from 
me ; or on any friend of yours you are pleased to 
name. I will not let you escape. Whether I shall 
face a guilty man in you, God knows ; but I know I 
have a right to call upon you to face me. 

* I am. Sir, 

* Yours truly, 

* Robert Eccles.' 

Edward's face grew signally white over the contents 
of this unprecedented challenge. The letter had been 
brought in to him at the breakfast table. 'Read it, 
read it,' said Mrs. Lovell, seeing him put it by; and 
he had read it with her eyes on him. 

The man seemed to him a man of claws, who 
clutched like a demon. Would nothing quiet him? 
Edward thought of bribes for the sake of peace ; but 
252 



RHODA FLEMING 

a second glance at the letter assured his sagacious chapter 

XXII 

mind that bribes were powerless in this man*s case ; Edward takes 
neither bribes nor sticks were of service. Departure his course 
from Fairly would avail as little : the tenacious devil 
would follow him to London ; and what was worse, 
as a hound from Dahlia's family he was now on the 
right scent, and appeared to know that he was. How 
was a scandal to be avoided ? By leaving Fairly in- 
stantly for any place on earth, he could not avoid 
leaving the man behind; and if the man saw Mrs. 
Lovell again, her instincts as a woman of her class 
were not to be trusted. As likely as not she would 
side with the ruffian ; that is, she would think he 
had been wronged — perhaps think that he ought to 
have been met. There is the democratic virus secret 
in every woman ; it was predominant in Mrs. Lovell, 
according to Edward's observation of the lady. The 
rights of individual manhood were, as he angrily per- 
ceived, likely to be recognized by her spirit, if only 
they were stoutly asserted; and that in defiance of 
station, of reason, of all the ideas inculcated by edu- 
cation and society. 

*I believe she'll expect me to fight him,' he ex- 
claimed. At least, he knew she would despise him 
if he avoided the brutal challenge without some show 
of dignity. 

On rising from the table, he drew Algernon aside. 
It was an insufferable thought that he was compelled 
to take his brainless cousin into his confidence, even 
to the extent of soliciting his counsel, but there was 
no help for it. In vain Edward asked himself why 
he had been such an idiot as to stain his hands with 
the afi^air at all. He attributed it to his regard for 

253 



RHOD'A FLEMING 

CHAPTER Algernon. Having commonly the sway of his passions, 

Edward takes ^® ^^^ ^^ *^® habit of forgetting that he ever lost 

his Course control of them ; and the fierce black mood, engendered 

by Robert's audacious persecution, had passed from 

his memory, though it was now recalled in full force. 

* See what a mess you drag a man into,' he said. 
Algernon read a line of the letter. * Oh, confound 

this infernal fellow ! ' he shouted, in sickly wonder- 
ment ; and snapped sharp, * / drag you into the mess ? 
Upon my honour, your coolness, Ned, is the biggest 
part about you, if it isn't the best.' 

Edward's grip fixed on him, for they were only just 
out of earshot of Mrs. Lovell. They went upstairs, 
and Algernon read the letter through. 

* " Midnight assassin," ' he repeated ; ' by Jove ! 
how beastly that sounds. It 's a lie that you attacked 
him in the dark, Ned — eh ? ' 

*I did not attack him at all,' said Edward. <He 
behaved like a ruffian to you, and deserved shooting 
like a mad dog.' 

* Did you, though,' Algernon persisted in questioning, 
despite his cousin's manifest shyness of the subject; 
* did you really go out with that man Sedgett, and stop 
this fellow on horseback? He speaks of a blow. You 
didn't strike him, did you, Ned? I mean, not a hit, 
except in self-defence ? ' 

Edward bit his lip, and shot a level reflective side- 
look, peculiar to him when meditating. He wished 
his cousin to propose that Mrs. Lovell should see the 
letter. He felt that by consulting with her, he could 
bring her to apprehend the common sense of the 
position, and be so far responsible for what he might 
do, that she would not dare to let her heart be re- 
254 



RHODA FLEMING 

bellious toward him subsequently. If he himself went chapter 

XXII 

to her it would look too much like pleading for her Edward takes 
intercession. The subtle directness of the woman's his course 
spirit had to be guarded against at every point. 

He replied to Algernon : 

*What I did was on your behalf. Oblige me by 
not interrogating me. I give you my positive assur- 
ance that I encouraged no unmanly assault on him.' 

* That '11 do, that '11 do,' said Algernon, eager not to 
hear more, lest there should come an explanation of 
what he had heard. * Of course, then, this fellow has 
no right — the devil 's in him ! If we could only make 
him murder Sedgett and get hanged for it ! He 's got 
a friend who 's a major in the army ? Oh, come, I say ; 
this is pitching it too stiff. I shall insist upon seeing 
his commission. Really, Ned, I can't advise. I '11 
stand by you, that you may be sure of — stand by you ; 
but what the deuce to say to help you ! Go before 
the magistrate. . . . Get Lord Elling to issue a warrant 
to prevent a breach of the peace. No ; that won't do. 
This quack of a major in the army 's to call to-morrow. 
I don't mind, if he shows his credentials all clear, 
amusing him in any manner he likes. I can't see the 
best scheme. Hang it, Ned, it's very hard upon me 
to ask me to do the thinking. I always go to Peggy 
Lovell when I 'm bothered. There — Mrs. Lovell ! Mis- 
tress Lovell ! Madame ! my Princess Lovell, if you 
want me to pronounce respectable titles to her name. 
You 're too proud to ask a woman to help you, ain't 
you, Ned ? ' 

' No,' said Edward mildly. < In some cases their 
wits are keen enough. One doesn't like to drag her 
into such a business.' 

255 




RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER ' Hm,' went Algernon. ' I don't think she 's so inno- 

XXII 

Edward takes ^^^^ ^f it as you fancy/ 
his Course < She 's vcry clever,' said Edward. 

* She 's awfully clever ! ' cried Algernon. He paused 
to give room for more praises of her, and then pur- 
sued : * She *s so kind. That 's what you don't credit 
her for. I'll go and consult her, if positively you 
don't mind. Trust her for keeping it quiet. Come, 
Ned, she's sure to hit upon the right thing. May 
Igo?' 

* It 's your affair, more than mine,* said Edward. 

* Have it so, if you like,' returned the good-natured 
fellow. ^ It 's worth while consulting her, just to see 
how neatly she '11 take it. Bless your heart, she won't 
know a bit more than you want her to know. I 'm off 
to her now.' He carried away the letter. 

Edward's own practical judgement would have ad- 
vised his instantly sending a short reply to Robert, 
explaining that he was simply in conversation with 
the man Sedgett, when Robert, the old enemy of the 
latter, rode by, and, that while regretting Sedgett's 
proceedings, he could not be held accountable for 
them. But it was useless to think of acting in accord- 
ance with his reason. Mrs. Lovell was queen, and sat 
in reason's place. It was absolutely necessary to con- 
ciliate her approbation of his conduct in this dilemma, 
by submitting to the decided unpleasantness of talking 
with her on a subject that fevered him, and of allowing 
her to suppose he required the help of her sagacity. 
Such was the humiliation imposed upon him. Further 
than this he had nothing to fear, for no woman could 
fail to be overborne by the masculine force of his 
brain in an argument. The humiliation was bad 
256 



RHODA FLEMING 

enough, and half tempted him to think that his old chapter 

dream of working as a hard student, with fair and Edw™takes 

gentle Dahlia ministering to his comforts, and too his Course 

happy to call herself his, was best. Was it not, after 

one particular step had been taken, the manliest life 

he could have shaped out? Or did he imagine it so 

at this moment, because he was a coward, and because 

pride, and vanity, and ferocity alternately had to screw 

him up to meet the consequences of his acts, instead 

of the great heart ? 

If a coward, Dahlia was his home, his refuge, his 
sanctuary. Mrs. Lovell was perdition and its scorch- 
ing fires to a man with a taint of cowardice in him. 

Whatever he was, Edward's vanity would not permit 
him to acknowledge himself that. Still, he did not 
call on his heart to play inspiriting music. His ideas 
turned to subterfuge. His aim was to keep the good 
opinion of Mrs. Lovell while he quieted Robert ; and 
he entered straightway upon that very perilous course, 
the attempt, for the sake of winning her, to bewilder 
and deceive a woman's instincts. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

Major Percy Waring 

Over a fire in one of the upper sitting-rooms of the 
Pilot Inn, Robert sat with his friend, the beloved friend 
of whom he used to speak to Dahlia and Rhoda, too 
proudly not to seem betraying the weaker point of 
pride. This friend had accepted the title from a 
private soldier of his regiment ; to be capable of doing 
9— R 257 



RHODA FLEMING 



CHAPTER 

XXIII 

Major Percy 

Waring 



which, a man must be both officer and gentleman in 
a sterner and less liberal sense than is expressed by 
that everlasting phrase in the mouth of the military 
parrot. Major Percy Waring, the son of a clergyman, 
was a working soldier, a slayer, if you will, from pure 
love of the profession of arms, and all the while the 
sweetest and gentlest of men. I call him a working 
soldier in opposition to the parading soldier, the cox- 
comb in uniform, the hero by accident, and the martial 
boys of wealth and station, who are of the army of 
England. He studied war when the trumpet slumbered, 
and had no place but in the field when it sounded. To 
him the honour of England was as a babe in his arms : 
he hugged it like a mother. He knew the military 
history of every regiment in the service. Disasters 
even of old date brought groans from him. This en- 
thusiastic face was singularly soft when the large dark 
eyes were set musing. The cast of it being such, 
sometimes in speaking of a happy play of artillery 
upon congregated masses, an odd effect was produced. 
Ordinarily, the clear features were reflective almost 
to sadness, in the absence of animation ; but an exult- 
ing energy for action would now and then light them 
up. Hilarity of spirit did not belong to him. He was, 
nevertheless, a cheerful talker, as could be seen in 
the glad ear given to him by Robert. Between them 
it was * Robert ' and * Percy.' Robert had rescued him 
from drowning on the East Anglian shore, and the 
friendship which ensued was one chief reason for 
Robert's quitting the post of trooper and buying him- 
self out. It was against Percy's advice, who wanted 
to purchase a commission for him ; but the humbler 
man had the sturdy scruples of his rank regarding 
258 



RHODA FLEMING 

money, and his romantic illusions being dispersed by chapter 
an experience of the absolute class-distinctions in the Maio^Percy 
service, Robert, that he might prevent his friend from waring 
violating them, made use of his aunt's legacy to obtain 
release. Since that date they had not met ; but their 
friendship was fast. Percy had recently paid a visit 
to Queen Anne's Farm, where he had seen Rhoda and 
heard of Robert's departure. Knowing Robert's birth- 
place, he had come on to Warbeach, and had seen 
Jonathan Eccles, who referred him to Mrs. Boulby, 
licensed seller of brandy, if he wished to enjoy an 
interview with Robert Eccles. 

* The old man sent up regularly every day to in- 
quire how his son was faring on the road to the next 
world,' said Robert, laughing. * He 's tough old English 
oak. I 'm just to him what I appear at the time. It 's 
better having him like that than one of your jerky 
fathers, who seem to belong to the stage of a theatre. 
Everybody respects my old dad, and I can laugh at 
what he thinks of me. I 've only to let him know I 've 
served an apprenticeship in farming, and can make 
use of some of his ideas — sound ! every one of 'em ; 
every one of 'em sound ! And that I say of my own 
father.' 

* Why don't you tell him ? ' Percy asked. 

*I want to forget all about Kent and drown the 
county,' said Robert. *And I'm going to, as far as 
my memory 's concerned.' 

Percy waited for some seconds. He comprehended 
perfectly this state of wilfulness in an uneducated 
sensitive man. 

* She has a stedfast look in her face, Robert. She 
doesn't look as if she trifled. I 've really never seen 

259 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER a finer franker girl in my life, if faces are to be 

Major Percy ^rubiea. 

Waring * It 's t' Other way. There 's no trifling in her case. 

She 's frank. She fires at you point blank.' 

* You never mentioned her in your letters to me, 
Robert.' 

* No. I had a suspicion from the first I was going 
to be a fool about the girl.' 

Percy struck his hand. 

* You didn't do quite right.' 

* Do you say that ? ' 

Robert silenced him with this question, for there 
was a woman in Percy's antecedent history. 

The subject being dismissed, they talked more freely. 
Robert related the tale of Dahlia, and of his doings at 
Fairly. 

* Oh ! we agree,' he said, noting a curious smile that 
Percy could not smooth out of sight. * I know it was 
odd conduct. I do respect my superiors ; but, believe 
me or not, Percy, injury done to a girl makes me mad, 
and I can't hold back ; and she 's the sister of the girl 
you saw. By heaven ! if it weren't for my head getting 
blind now when my blood boils, I 've the mind to walk 
straight up to the house and screw the secret out of 
one of them. What I say is — Is there a God up aloft ? 
Then, he sees all, and society is vapour, and while I 
feel the spirit in me to do it, I go straight at my aim.' 

*If, at the same time, there's no brandy in you,' 
said Percy, * which would stop your seeing clear or 
going straight.' 

The suggestion was a cruel shock. Robert nodded. 
* That 's true. I suppose it 's my bad education that 
won't let me keep cool. I 'm ashamed of myself after 
260 



RHODA FLEMING 

it. I shout and thunder, and the end of it is, I go chapter 
away and think about the same of Robert Eccles that Majo^Percy 
I 've frightened other people into thinking. Perhaps waring 
you '11 think me to blame in this case ? One of those 
Mr. Blancoves — not the one you 've heard of — struck 
me on the field before a lady. I bore it. It was part 
of what I'd gone out to meet. I was riding home 
late at night, and he stood at the corner of the lane, 
with an old enemy of mine, and a sad cur that is ! 
Sedgett's his name — Nic, the Christian part of it. 
There 'd just come a sharp snowfall from the north, 
and the moonlight shot over the flying edge of the 
rear-cloud; and I saw Sedgett with a stick in his 
hand; but the gentleman had no stick. I'll give 
Mr. Edward Blancove credit for not meaning to be 
active in a dastardly assault. 

* But why was he in consultation with my enemy ? 
And he let my enemy — by the way, Percy, you dislike 
that sort of talk of " my enemy," I know. You like 
it put plain and simple : but down in these old parts 
again, I catch at old habits ; and I 'm always a worse 
man when I haven't seen you for a time. Sedgett, 
say. Sedgett, as I passed, made a sweep at my horse's 
knees, and took them a little over the fetlock. The 
beast reared. While I was holding on he swung a 
blow at me, and took me here.' 

Robert touched his head. * I dropped like a horse- 
chestnut from the tree. When I recovered, I was 
lying in the lane. I think I was there flat, face to 
the ground, for half an hour, quite sensible, looking 
at the pretty colour of my blood on the snow. The 
horse was gone. I just managed to reel along to this 
place, where there 's always a home for me. Now, 

261 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER will you bclieve it possible? I went out next day: 
Maj^^Percy ^ ^^^ ^^' Edward Blaucove, and I might have seen 
Waring a baby and felt the same to it. I didn't know him a 
bit. Yesterday morning your letter was sent up from 
Sutton farm. Somehow, the moment I 'd read it, I 
remembered his face. I sent him word there was a 
matter to be settled between us. You think I was 
wrong ? * 

Major Waring had set a deliberately calculating eye 
on him. 

* I want to hear more,' he said. 

* You think I have no claim to challenge a man in 
his position ? ' 

'Answer me first, Robert. You think this Mr. 
Blancove helped, or instigated this man Sedgett in 
his attack upon you ? ' 

* I haven't a doubt that he did.' 

* It 's not plain evidence.' 

* It 's good circumstantial evidence.' 

*At any rate, you are perhaps justified in thinking 
him capable of this: though the rule is, to believe 
nothing against a gentleman until it is flatly proved 
— when we drum him out of the ranks. But, if you 
can fancy it true, would you put yourself upon an 
equal footing with him ? ' 

* I would,' said Robert. 

* Then you accept his code of morals.' 

* That 's too shrewd for me : but men who preach 
against duelling, or any kind of man-to-man in hot 
earnest, always fence in that way.' 

' I detest duelling,' Major Waring remarked. 'I don't 
like a system that permits knaves and fools to exercise 
a claim to imperil the lives of useful men. Let me 
262 



RHODA FLEMING 

observe, that I am not a preacher against it. I think chapter 
you know my opinions ; and they are not quite those Mai^f Percy 
of the English magistrate, and other mild persons who waring 
are wrathful at the practice upon any pretence. Keep 
to the other discussion. You challenge a man — you 
admit him your equal. But why do I argue with you ? 
I know your mind as well as my own. You have 
some other idea in the background.* 

* I feel that he 's the guilty man,' said Robert. 

* You feel called upon to punish him.' 

* No. Wait : he will not fight ; but I have him and 
I'll hold him. I feel he's the man who has injured 
this girl, by every witness of facts that I can bring 
together ; and as for the other young fellow I led such 
a dog's life down here, I could beg his pardon. This 
one's eye met mine. I saw it wouldn't have stopped 
short of murder — opportunity given. Why ? Because 
I pressed on the right spring. I 'm like a woman in 

seeing some things. He shall repent. By ! Slap 

me on the face, Percy. I 've taken to brandy and to 
swearing. Damn the girl who made me forget good 
lessons ! Bless her heart, I mean. She saw you, did 
she ? Did she colour when she heard your name ? ' 

* Very much,' said Major Waring. 

* Was dressed in ? ' 

* Black, with a crimson ribbon round the collar.' 
Robert waved the image from his eyes. 

* I 'm not going to dream of her. Peace, and babies, 
and farming, and pride in myself with a woman by my 
side — there ! You 've seen her — all that 's gone. I 
might as well ask the East wind to blow West. Her 
face is set the other way. Of course, the nature and 
value of a man is shown by how he takes this sort 

263 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER of pain ; and hark at me ! I 'm yelling. I thought I 
Maj^™rcy ^^^ cured. I looked up into the eyes of a lady ten 
Waring times sweeter — when? — somewhen! I've lost dates. 
But here 's the girl at me again. She cuddles into me 
—slips her hand into my breast and tugs at strings 
there. I can't help talking to you about her, now 
we *ve got over the first step. I '11 soon give it up. 

* She wore a red ribbon ? If it had been Spring, 
you'd have seen roses. Oh! what a stanch heart 
that girl has. Where she sets it, mind ! Her life 
where that creature sets her heart ! But, for me, not 
a penny of comfort ! Now for a whole week of her, 
day and night, in that black dress with the coloured 
ribbon. On she goes: walking to church; sitting at 
table ; looking out of the window ! — 

* Will you believe I thought those thick eyebrows of 
hers ugly once — a tremendous long time ago. Yes; 
but what eyes she has under them ! And if she looks 
tender, one corner of her mouth goes quivering; and 
the eyes are steady, so that it looks like some wonder- 
ful bit of mercy. 

*I think of that true-hearted creature praying and 
longing for her sister, and fearing there's shame — 
that 's why she hates me. I wouldn't say I was certain 
her sister had not fallen into a pit. I couldn't. I was 
an idiot. I thought I wouldn't be a hypocrite. I might 
have said I believed as she did. There she stood 
ready to be taken — ready to have given herself to me, 
if I had only spoken a word ! It was a moment of 
heaven, and God the Father could not give it to me 
twice ! The chance has gone. 

* Oh, what a miserable mad dog I am to gabble on 
in this way. Come in ! come in, mother.' 

264 



RHODA FLEMING 

Mrs. Boulby entered, with soft footsteps, bearing a letter, chapter 
'From the Park/ she said, and commenced chiding Major Percy 
Robert gently, to establish her right to do it][with waring 
solemnity. 

*He will talk, sir. He's one o' them that either 
they talk or they hang silent, and no middle way will 
they take ; and the doctor 's their foe, and health they 
despise ; and since this cruel blow, obstinacy do seem 
to have been knocked like a nail into his head so fast, 
persuasion have not a atom o' power over him.' 

' There must be talking when friends meet, ma'am,' 
said Major Waring. 

* Ah ! ' returned the widow, * if it wouldn't be all on 
one side.' 

* I 've done now, mother,' said Robert. 

Mrs. Boulby retired, and Robert opened the letter. 
It ran thus : — 
'Sir, 

* I am glad you have done me the favour of address- 
ing me temperately, so that I am permitted to clear 
myself of an unjust and most unpleasant imputation. 
I will, if you please, see you, or your friend ; to whom 
perhaps I shall better be able to certify how unfounded 
is the charge you bring against me. I will call upon 
you at the Pilot Inn, where I hear that you are 
staying ; or, if you prefer it, I will attend to any 
appointment you may choose to direct elsewhere. 
But it must be immediate, as the term of my residence 
in this neighbourhood is limited. 

*I am, 

' Sir, 
* Yours obediently, 

' Edward Blanxove.' 
265 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Major Waring read the lines with a critical attention. 

XXIII 

Major Percy ' ^* secms fair and open,' was his remark. 
Waring < Here,' Robert struck his breast, ' here 's what 

answers him. What shall I do ? Shall I tell him 
to come ? ' 

* Write to say that your friend will meet him at a 
stated place.' 

Robert saw his prey escaping. ^ Pm not to see 
him?' 

*No. The decent is the right way in such cases. 
You must leave it to me. This will be the proper 
method between gentlemen.' 

* It appears to my idea,' said Robert, * that gentle- 
men are always, somehow, stopped from taking the 
straight-ahead measure.' 

'You,' Percy rejoined, * are like a civilian before a 
fortress. Either he finds it so easy that he can walk 
into it, or he gives it up in despair as unassailable. 
You have followed your own devices, and what have 
you accomplished?' 

* He will lie to you smoothly.' 

* Smoothly or not, if I discover that he has spoken 
falsely, he is answerable to me.' 

' To me, Percy.' 

* No ; to me. He can elude you ; and will be 
acquitted by the general verdict. But when he 
becomes answerable to me, his honour, in the con- 
ventional, which is here the practical, sense, is at 
stake, and I have him.' 

* I see that. Yes ; he can refuse to fight me,' Robert 
sighed. * Hey, Lord ! it 's a heavy world when we 
come to methods. But will you, Percy, will you put 
it to him at the end of your fist — "Did you deceivfe 

266 



RHODA FLEMING 

the girl, and do you know where the girl now is ? '* chapter 
Why, great heaven ! we only ask to know where she Maj^^Percy 
is. She may have been murdered. She 's hidden from waring 
her family. Let him confess, and let him go.' 

Major Waring shook his head. * You see like a 
woman perhaps, Robert. You certainly talk like a 
woman. I will state your suspicions. When I have 
done so, I am bound to accept his reply. If we dis- 
cover it to have been false, I have my remedy.' 

* Won't you perceive, that it isn't my object to 
punish him by-and-by, but to tear the secret out of 
him on the spot — now — instantly,' Robert cried. 

*I perceive your object, and you have experienced 
some of the results of your system. It 's the primitive 
action of an appeal to the god of combats, that is 
exploded in these days. You have no course but 
to take his word.' 

' She said ' — Robert struck his knee — * she said I 
should have the girl's address. She said she would 
see her. She pledged that to me. I'm speaking of 
the lady up at Fairly. Come ! things get clearer. If 
she knows where Dahlia is, who told her ? This Mr. 
Algernon — not Edward Blancove — was seen with 
Dahlia in a box at the Playhouse. He was there 
with Dahlia, yet I don't think him the guilty man. 
There 's a finger of light upon that other.' 

*Who is this lady?' Major Waring asked, with lifted 
eyebrows. 

< Mrs. LovelL' 

At the name, Major Waring sat stricken. 

* Lovell ! ' he repeated, under his breath. * Lovell ! 
Was she ever in India ? ' 

* I don't know, indeed.' 

267 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER ' Is she a widow ? ' 
Maj^^percy ' ^Y ; that I 'vc heard.' 
Waring * Describe her.' 

Robert entered upon the task with a dozen headlong 
exclamations, and very justly concluded by saying 
that he could give no idea of her ; but his friend 
apparently had gleaned sufficient. 

Major Waring's face was touched by a strange pallor, 
and his smile had vanished. He ran his fingers through 
his hair, clutching it in a knot, as he sat eyeing the 
red chasm in the fire, where the light of old days and 
wild memories hangs as in a crumbling world. 

Robert was aware of there being a sadness in Percy's 
life, and that he had loved a woman and awakened 
from his passion. Her name was unknown to him. 
In that matter, his natural delicacy and his deference 
to Percy had always checked him from sounding the 
subject closely. He might be, as he had said, keen 
as a woman where his own instincts were in action ; 
but they were ineffective in guessing at the cause for 
Percy's sudden depression. 

* She said — this lady, Mrs. Lovell, whoever she may 
be — she said you should have the girl's address : gave 
you that pledge of her word ? ' Percy spoke, half 
meditating. 'How did this happen? When did you 
see her ? ' 

Robert related the incident of his meeting with her, 
and her effort to be a peacemaker, but made no allu- 
sion to Mrs. Boulby's tale of the bet. 

*A peacemaker!' Percy interjected. 'She rides 
well?' 

* Best horsewoman I ever saw in my life,' was 
Robert's ready answer. 

268 



RHODA FLEMING 

Major Waring brushed at his forehead, as in im- chapter 

XXIII 

patience of thought. ^^^^^ p„,y 

* You must write two letters : one to this Mrs. waring 
Lovell. Say, you are about to leave the place, and 
remind her of her promise. It 's incomprehensible ; 
but never mind. Write that first. Then to the man. 
Say that your friend — by the way, this Mrs. Lovell 
has small hands, has she ? I mean, peculiarly small ? 
Did you notice, or not? I may know her. Never 
mind. Write to the man. Say — don't write down 
my name — say that I will meet him.' Percy spoke 
on as in a dream. 'Appoint any place and hour. 
To-morrow at ten, down by the river — the bridge. 
Write briefly. Thank him for his offer to afford 
you explanations. Don't argue it with me any more. 
Write both the letters straight off.' 

His back was to Robert as he uttered the injunction. 
Robert took pen and paper, and did as he was bidden, 
with all the punctilious obedience of a man who con- 
sents perforce to see a better scheme abandoned. 

One effect of the equality existing between these two 
of diverse rank in life and perfect delicacy of heart, 
was, that the moment Percy assumed the lead, Robert 
never disputed it. Muttering simply that he was in- 
capable of writing except when he was in a passion, 
he managed to produce what, in Percy's eyes, were 
satisfactory epistles, though Robert had horrible mis- 
givings in regard to his letter to Mrs. Lovell — the 
wording of it, the cast of the sentences, even down 
to the character of the handwriting. These missives 
were despatched immediately. 

*You are sure she said that?' Major Waring in- 
quired more than once during the afternoon, and 

269 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER Robert assured him that Mrs. Lovell had given him 

XXIII 

Major Percy ^^^ word. He grew very positive, and put it on his 
Waring honour that she had said it. 

* You may have heard incorrectly.' 

* I 've got the words burning inside me,' said Robert. 
They walked together, before dark, to Sutton Farm, 

but Jonathan Eccles was abroad in his fields, and their 
welcome was from Mistress Anne, whom Major Waring 
had not power to melt ; the moment he began speak- 
ing praise of Robert, she closed her mouth tight and 
crossed her wrists meekly. 

'I see,' said Major Waring, as they left the farm, 
* your aunt is of the godly who have no forgiveness.' 

* I 'm afraid so,' cried Robert. * Cold blood never 
will come to an understanding with hot blood, and 
the old lady's is like frozen milk. She 's right in 
her way, I dare say. I don't blame her. Her piety 's 
right enough, take it as you find it.' 

Mrs. Boulby had a sagacious notion that gentlemen 
always dined well every day of their lives, and claimed 
that much from Providence as their due. She had 
exerted herself to spread a neat little repast for Major 
Waring, and waited on the friends herself; grieving 
considerably to observe that the major failed in his 
duty as a gentleman, as far as the relish of eating 
was concerned. 

* But,' she said below at her bar, * he smokes the 
beautifulest-smelling cigars, and drinks coffee made 
in his own way. He 's very particular.' Which was 
reckoned to be in Major Waring's favour. 

The hour was near midnight when she came into 
the room, bearing another letter from the Park. She 
thumped it on the table, ruffling and making that 
270 



RHODA FLEMING 

pretence at the controlling of her bosom which pre- chapter 
cedes a feminine storm. Her indignation was caused Majo^Percy 
by a communication delivered by Dick Curtis, in the waring 
parlour underneath, to the effect that Nicodemus 
Sedgett was not to be heard of in the neighbour- 
hood. 

Robert laughed at her, and called her Hebrew woman 
— eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth woman. 

* Leave real rascals to the Lord above, mother. He 's 
safe to punish them. They 've stepped outside the 
chances. That's my idea. I wouldn't go out of my 
way to kick them — not I ! It 's the half-and-half 
villains we 've got to dispose of. They 're the mis- 
chief, old lady.' 

Percy, however, asked some questions about Sed- 
gett, and seemed to think his disappearance singular. 
He had been examining the handwriting of the super- 
scription to the letter. His face was flushed as he 
tossed it for Robert to open. Mrs. Boulby dropped 
her departing curtsey, and Robert read out, with odd 
pauses and puzzled emphasis : 

* Mrs. Lovell has received the letter which Mr. Robert 
Eccles has addressed to her, and regrets that a mis- 
conception should have arisen from anything that 
was uttered during their interview. The allusions 
are obscure, and Mrs. Lovell can only remark, that 
she is pained if she at all misled Mr. Eccles in what 
she either spoke or promised. She is not aware that 
she can be of any service to him. Should such an 
occasion present itself, Mr. Eccles may rest assured 
that she will not fail to avail herself of it, and do her 
utmost to redeem a pledge to which he has apparently 

271 



RHODA FLEMING 

CHAPTER attached a meaning she can in no way account for or 
Mai^^percy Comprehend.' 



Waring 



When Robert had finished, * It 's like a female 
lawyer,' he said. * That woman speaking, and that 
woman writing, they 're two different creatures — upon 
my soul, they are ! Quick, sharp, to the point, when 
she speaks ; and read this ! Can I venture to say of 
a lady, she 's a liar ? ' 

'Perhaps you had better not,' said Major Waring, 
who took the letter in his hand and seemed to study 
it. After which he transferred it to his pocket. 

* To-morrow ? To-morrow 's Sunday,' he observed. 

* We will go to church to-morrow.' His eyes glittered. 

*Why, I'm hardly in the mood,' Robert protested. 

* I haven't had the habit latterly.' 

* Keep up the habit,' said Percy. * It 's a good thing 
for men like you.' 

'But what sort of a fellow am I to be showing 
myself there among all the people who 've been talk- 
ing about me — and the people up at Fairly ! ' Robert 
burst out in horror of the prospect. * I shall be a 
sight among the people. Percy, upon my honour, 
I don't think I well can. I '11 read the Bible at home 
if you like.' 

'No; you'll do penance,' said Major Waring. 

' Are you meaning it ? ' 

' The penance will be ten times greater on my part, 
believe me.' 

Robert fancied him to be referring to some idea of 
mocking the interposition of religion. 

' Then we '11 go to Upton Church,' he said. ' I don't 
mind it at Upton.' 
272 



RHODA FLEMING 

' 1 intend to go to the church attended by " The Family," chapter 

XXIII 

as we say in our parts; and you must come with me Major Percy 
to Warbeach/ waring 

Clasping one hand across, his forehead, Robert cried, 

* You couldn't ask me to do a thing I hate so much. 
Go, and sit, and look sheepish, and sing hymns with 
the people I 've been badgering ; and everybody seeing 
me ! How can it be anything to you like what it is 
to me?' 

* You have only to take my word for it that it is, 
and far more,' said Major Waring, sinking his voice. 

* Come ; it won't do you any harm to make an ap- 
pointment to meet your conscience now and then. 
You will never be ruled by reason, and your feelings 
have to teach you what you learn. At any rate, it 's 
my request.' 

This terminated the colloquy upon that topic. Robert 
looked forward to a penitential Sabbath-day. 

*She is a widow still,' thought Major Waring, as 
he stood alone in his bedroom, and, drawing aside 
the curtains of his window, looked up at the white 
moon. 



9— S 273 



DDINBURQIi; T, and A, CONSTABLE, Printers to Her Majesty 



r 



Meredith, George 



PR 

.C6 

vol.9 



AUTHOR 

Rhoda Fleming 



TITLE 



»M 



Meredith, George 



Rhoda Fleming I 



PR 

500C - • 
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